Category Archives: Music

The Boss – June 2016

It’s not often I post about music but I felt the urge today. Back in the 1980s, when CDs were very new, there were CD clubs with special offers. At the time there was no such thing as iTunes or downloading music. The Internet wasn’t a thing yet, and vinyl and cassette tapes was still very popular. A CD club was where you paid something like £30 and chose six CDs out of a catalogue. They then sent them to you through the post on a special deal. Everyone in my family was able to choose one and I picked a double CD by someone I was vaguely aware of. Mostly, at the time, I think I just wanted to get my money’s worth as it was a two CD pack with something like 15 songs on each. That CD was Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits.

Bruce Springsteen - The BossI’m actually a little young to be a first generation fan. I’m probably second generation as by the time I was old enough to be aware of his music, he’d been going for about twelve years and had just hit the big time and broken through. So aged ten or so, I listened to my CD whenever I could. I liked some of the songs, thought some of them were a bit depressing and thought some were amazing.

Almost thirty years later, and probably a dozen albums on, I am now a genuine fan. Musically I have a few pillars that have been with me throughout my life. REM is one and The Boss, as Springsteen is sometimes called, is one of the others. I went from someone who bought the CD on a whim to someone who introduces others to his music. I changed from someone who only enjoyed the anthem tunes to someone who also loves the slower, more thoughtful pieces.

Three years ago I was living in Yorkshire, close to Leeds, and the city finally got its own arena. Sir Elton John was due to open it in September but Springsteen was coming to the area in July and asked if he could do a gig there.

They say you should never meet your heroes in person as you will be disappointed because they’re only human and therefore flawed. Speaking from experience, there is definitely some truth to that. However the Boss did not disappoint at all.

About 13 thousand people, including me, saw him blow the roof off the arena. It was over three and a half hours of non-stop music. He never once came off stage. And this is a guy in his sixties.

Last week I saw him again for the second time in my life, this time alongside 38 thousand people. It was loud. It was epic. It was an amazing experience. Here is a guy who has been performing live for over forty years. Sometimes when a musician has been going that long and you finally see them it doesn’t live up to the hype. They’re past their prime and just tired. Once again, he proved that negative voice wrong. He was full of energy and at times the whole arena was on their feet.

Bruce Springsteen - The Boss2He definitely inspires me. I’ve achieved one of my life’s ambitions and am now a published fantasy author. But, I believe my best work is ahead of me, not behind me. If I keep pushing myself and trying my best then perhaps in thirty years time when others look back over my body of work, I might inspire them to create something, be it music, art, comics, a novel or whatever, and try a little bit harder on their next project.

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Living Things by Linkin Park

Living Things by Linkin ParkI was going back and forth about whether or not to buy this album, but after previewing all of the tracks I took a gamble. The last two albums, for me, have been a let down, and no, I’m not including the rap mix revision with Jay-Z which I did not touch with a barge pole. Despite one or two tracks that were great on Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns, I found the rest to be a real let down or they made me grind my teeth.

Linkin Park’s first two albums were amazing. Every single song on Hybrid Theory is excellent. In particular the instrumental track, Cure for the Itch fascinates me and I’m still convinced the latter part would make an amazing theme tune for something like a remake of The Equalizer on TV, as it seems to perfectly capture the mood and darker aspects of that show. Some people claim that debut albums are the best and thereafter the music goes downhill as people ‘sell out’ or their egos get too big and they believe their own hype, or a billion other reasons for not getting more of the same the second time around. I’m not someone who believes or buys into that wobbly theory. Meteora, LP’s second album, proved that theory to be wholly untrue. Sure, it was different, but they’d grown up a bit, their style had evolved and there were some amazing mixes and blending of different sounds, styles and voices. Numb is still one of my favourite LP tracks and I don’t think there is a weak song on the album.

Enough dancing around. Living Things starts out very strongly and for the first half I was delighted to hear a mix of new and old. Some songs feature the familiar, with Chester and Mike doing their usual rap and shouty blend of musical mayhem that is one of their signatures. So maybe they didn’t invent it, but it’s a sound I associate primarily with them. There are even a couple of soHybrid Theory by Linkin Parkngs where Chester’s voice is kept at an even 8 out of 10 on the Richter scale and he doesn’t shout once. You can hear him almost getting there at the start of I’ll Be Gone but he manages to hold back and the song is better for it. Castle of Glass that follows it is excellent and at this point I was feeling very happy with my purchase and for taking a risk.

So, imagine my surprise after two great, but more gentle tracks in a row than you might associate with the band, to have my ears blasted by what can only be described as a vicious musical interlude for 1m 46s called Victimized. To me it felt as if it was nothing more than an excuse for Chester to shout. A lot. Over and over again to the point where I was worried about his health. It’s almost as if they thought they were at risk of losing their audience because the last few tracks had not featured their hallmark sound. Or maybe they were scared of having a more thoughtful and quieter album and they felt the need to remind everyone that they are still a nu-metal or rock band and full of angst and are angry and grrrrr, look at me!

For every evolution in the tracks up to that point, Victimized felt like a complete devolution. It felt like version 0 of Linkin Park, something they did on their demo album before Hybrid Theory where someone said, yeah it’s a good sound, but it needs to be more than Chester shouting which then led into their break out album.

There was one song, Until It Breaks, that I just loathe. Linkin Park are known for experimenting and mixing sounds and styles, but this is a hideous mish-mash. It starts as one thing, jumps to something else, then something else, then a bit of a chorus, then something else, and it just doesn’t gel together. At all. The second half of the album is definitely weaker, but if you can get past the saccharin nature of Roads Untravelled, and Meteora by Linkin Parkyou skip the next musical interlude Tin Foil, which seems kind of pointless, and make it to Powerless then it’s not bad. One last thing before I end on more of a positive note. In this mp3, single track download era, where people pick and choose songs and discard the rest, I’m still a traditionalist. I listen to an album as an entity, and I think Linkin Park share that approach as their tracks blend into one another with no long pauses in between songs but as a whole this album is erratic and inconsistent, especially when compared to the others.

So overall I’d give it a 7/10 but there are some great tracks on there that make this album worth buying. And even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two, it was worth the gamble and I’m glad I bought it.

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