Urban based music is often similar to the structures that reside within its boundaries; crass, monolithic and mechanized to extents. No matter its outlet, be it hip hop, rock, punk, metal; its base expression rests on tales of disillusion, apathy, violence, drugs and other vices analogous to the lives entangled in concrete, steel and stone. We however, do take a liking to this form of negative influence – torrid anecdotes of sin and booze make for good song material; as do street thuggery and voices of upheaval and rebellion. Although such substance plays well to our most human of temptations, it is perhaps those who overcome these tragic follies and in their own creative, socially conscious ways influence others to do the same that has intrigued us the most.
It is a far cry from their rural counterparts. Who in their tranquil locale, often evade the same topical prose that seemingly becomes the norm for street-wise musicians. Surrounded by aging vistas, endless prairie lands and the frolicking wild, they tend to envision Earth’s unruffled surface in their manipulation of music. Those restful trees and soulful hills have plenty to say, but they speak of reflections, longings and love’s narratives in what is often far more simplistic and rustic. Key toned guitars are often unaccompanied, unhurried – coupling the lasting echo of music’s cowboys and lone heroes. Teitur is such a figure; hailing from the Faroe Islands, his craftful guise of guitar strung musings into one’s heart is likely to paint pictures of this apparent solemnity, one as graceful as its greenery visage and insightful meandering.
While graciously pop, the melodic undertones of the opening “Sleeping With the Lights On” is as far into accessible as Teitur will venture. Buoyed by rhythmic arrangements and its sensitively coy pop bass lounging, it distinctly reminds ears of Sting’s chic nature. Strengthen by Teitur’s deep vocal quality; its passable appearance is smartly kept in check by its unrepeated impression, avoiding the moment it passes from good natured to average.
His calm insightfulness is at a visible peak in “I Was Just Thinking”, a beautifully donned stringed whisper that best reflects this sense of solemn ground. Nimble and perfectly pastoral, it is the thoughtful disposition of that lone musician; resting in an aura of lovelorn contemplation, “I was just thinking / that I have been missing you for way too long / There’s something inside this weary head that wants us to love”, before resting in aching desire, “I’m tired of calling you / missing you / dreaming I’ve slept with you”. The track is wonderful in its ‘castle-in-the-sky-like’ daydream, blessed by its comforting ambience and quiet rustling.
Most of Teitur’s lyrical themes rest on wayward romances and all that equates to the matters of the heart; just take a gander at some of his chosen song titles: “Josephine”, “One and Only” and “Amanda’s Dream” – but as you tag along with the soft folk string-along of “Josephine”, with its culled words, “My sweet Josephine / Are you still racing stray dogs across the old stream? / My neighborhood queen”, it is clear that HIS heart is capable of delivering these recollections in a proficient manner. And like the no-frills balladry of “One and Only”, or the keyed escapism of “To Meet You”, his ability to move is as competent as his sharp contemplative charm.
Another rewarding aspect of Poetry & Aeroplanes is its uncluttered approach. Teitur seems content at simply being who he is; a talented, self-sufficient good guy who revels not in tattered grounds of overzealous experimentation and bizarre directions. His gifted scheming of what many say are the most romantic of instruments (the timeless strings of a guitar and the majestic ivory of a piano), are indicative of his spiritual and vastly grassland understanding. It is ideal in a time of stone, that the most pertinent of musicians paint pictures of well-being; a statement affirming that while many revel in the confines of concrete disillusion, there are those lone few who sleep in peaceful meadows.
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.