The Hit Songs of September 2020

This was a better than expected month for chart debuts. Don’t get me wrong, there was still some bad, but less than normal and the bad all have the same thing in common: they’re boring as hell.

15. Internet Money ft. Don Tolliver, Gunna and Nav – Lemonade
Have you heard a hip hop song before? Are you familiar with all the clichés about all the riches that these rappers that you’ve never heard of brag about on their songs? Good, you’ve got the content of this one covered. They mention drugs a lot too, which makes sense because the track sounds like someone fed Ableton all the Quaaludes then told it to spit out an acoustic guitar backed beat. There’s seriously not much to this song and even less when you factor in how damn boring the beat is.

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The Best Hit Songs of 1991

Hopefully, you’ve returned to day with the promise of some good music from 1991. Not one to disappoint, that’s what we’re here to do.

We’ll start out with a group of songs that just missed out on a spot in the top 10. There was quite a log jam of scores just outside the top 10, further proving what I said before that 1991 was an odd year of a lot of decent:
Wilson Philips – You’re in Love – I put it to you that this is a better track than their more well known “Hold On”.
Bonnie Raitt – Something To Talk About – A classic bluesy rock track, Raitt’s voice is so smooth, its the butter on top of this song.
Sting – All This Time – A reflection on the passing of his farther, this track is quite upbeat given the subject and is driven by a solid Hammond organ piece.
Roxette – Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave) – Great guitarwork in the background of a powerhouse piece of pop.
Extreme – Hole Hearted – Great piece of acoustic rock, punctuated with vocal and instrumental harmonies.
And after all those we are finally into the countdown.

10. Oleta Adams – Get Here – Year-end: #80, Peak: #5

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September 18, 2020

Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Destruction (Century Media)

The inventor-creators of Grindcore have come back. The 5 years since their last release had a number of enthusiasts concerned about their well-being, seeing as how this is the longest gap between albums since they first published Scum in 1987. 

If you are unfamiliar with Napalm Death, clearly you are new to metal. But that’s okay. Everyone has to start somewhere. They have been admired and respected by all in the industry for over 30 years. The best way I can describe their unique style and delivery is: semi-melodic, quasi-demonic, febrile chaos. While sounding positively evil, the most recent release is taking furious, amphetamine-laced punches at the current social and political state of things. 

As one of only 2 bands I can think of that has a song that clocks in at less than 1 second (the other one is The Electro Hippies), it is sort of refreshing to witness them doing an entire LP with reasonable-lengthed songs. 15 songs – 51 minutes. That’s downright radio-friendly! Let’s get these guys on the charts. 

Song length aside, Napalm Death has kept their signature, iconic grind intact. Fast-moving guitar riffage with little to no lead work, utterly devilish vocals that would rip a lesser throat to shreds, and drums that are so relentlessly punishing that my gut hurts just thinking about it. 

A strange point on the record is the surprisingly accessible and straightforward “Amoral”, a middle-of-the-album banger that displays their ability to create. It stands out because it has more in common with acts like The Melvins. It has…structure and…melody.

Whoah, it felt weird to write that. Oh, good. We’re okay. The title track follows it up with blistered corpse-fire and demonic torture. 

While this might be one of their most accessible recordings lo’ these 34 years, it isn’t their best and it is far from their worst. Actually, if you ARE new to them, this is a perfect place to start. If you’re an OG Grindcore fan, first take a shower before your neighbor thinks you’re dead, then crank this up.

FFO: Terrorizer, Carcass, The Locust

-JR

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The 10 Worst Hit Songs of 1991

The next installment of my project to review the year-end Hot 100’s of every year of my existence takes us to a kind of K-T line for pop music. 1991 was a very interesting year in that music is on the brink of a major shift, so the rules are kind of different. Dance pop rules the airwaves, hair metal is making its last gasps at life and soft rock is king. The charts are just kind of… weird. After listening to the top 100 songs on the charts from that year I think the best way to describe 1991 is meh. There were few songs that I would term “bad”, but there’s not a ton of “great” either. The middle ground, however, is packed with singles of all stripes. With that in mind, here’s how the bottom of my rankings shaped up. If you want to see Billboard’s full list, you can click here.

Before we really dive into the list, here’s a few tracks that were just good enough to miss the bottom 10:
The Escape Club – I’ll Be There – Some shaky vocals on an otherwise lifeless track, even for an early 90’s ballad.
UB40 – Here I Am (Come and Take Me) – Pretty standard reggae cover that manages to drain all the soul and feeling from the original.
Warrant – I Saw Red – Written after the lead singer caught his girlfriend in bed with Richie Sambora, it’s weak sauce given the subject. It takes two-and-a-half minutes to get to any shred of a passion in the vocals.
Paula Abdul – The Promise of a New Day – Man, are the back-up vocals distracting and not in a good way. Add the weird synth bells and you a track musically trying way too hard.

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September 11, 2020


Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos (Loma Vista/Marilyn Manson)

As most of 2020 has felt and looked like a sideshow to the Manson circus, it’s no surprise that We Are Chaos is his best work since Antichrist Superstar. On the title track, he bawls in his iconic warble, “We are sick, fucked up, and complicated. We are Chaos, We can’t be cured.” This is a sentiment that ties the tumultuous universe of the last 7 months to the angsty youth paradigm that gave the Dope Show its first staging.

After spending the last few years steeping himself in various pop and folk subgenres, covering Johnny Cash, and generally getting away from what he does best, We Are Chaos displays the musical maturity that comes from all that travelling. But DAMN! it’s good to be home. 

“RED, BLACK AND BLUE” is a psycho-glam masterpiece that opens with a creepy monologue, then launches into a full-on angry gothic takeover. “PAINT YOU” starts as a guitar and piano homage to Bowie and McCartney before ascending into noise. Classic Manson

Through his career, he has spent a lot of energy and lyrically punches on the falsity of celebrity and the foolishness of hero-worship, and that is just as true here. Some examples: “Just ‘cuz you’re famous doesn’t mean you’re worth anything / In this world or the next one or the one before” (“INFINITE DARKNESS”). “I’m not special, I’m just broken. And I don’t want to be fixed” (“SOLVE COAGULA”). “Am I a man or a show or a moment” (“WE ARE CHAOS”). 

While it’s not as chaotic as the title seems to indicate, it is as Manson as it gets. His self-torment and cultural flagellation are front and center. The album closer, “BROKEN NEEDLE”, sees him playing the part of a turntable stylus, broken by the grooves that mistreat it, scratching up the instigator, putting it away, and promising to “Never ever play you again”. That kind of lyric sticks with you. 

-JR

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September 4, 2020


All Them Witches – Nothing As The Ideal (New West Records)

Wow. Musically this is a treat. 

This Nashville quartet is steeped in blues, psychedelia, prog, and stoner metal. While they are a hard rock outfit, they employ classical guitar, gothic tones, and their own blend of everything that came out of the Delta Swamp (Dr. John, Soylent Green, Junior Kimbrough, etc). 

This is their 6th album, if you don’t count live releases, which I don’t. That’s in just 8 years, making them almost as prolific as King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard or Steve Buscemi. Much like the aforementioned genre-bending geniuses, you never quite know what to expect from these cats. Even just on this record, there are significant differences among the tracks.

The album opens with a slow build into a Tool-esque jam in 6/8 (“Saturnine & Iron Jaw”), “Everest” is a Led Zeppelin-meets-Donovan guitar instrumental, which bleeds into a Soundgarden-style downbeat banger (“See You Next Fall”). That gets followed up by a folk/country/blues track (“The Children of Coyote Woman”). The latter of these brings me to my next point, because it is the first song on the album that truly works with this dude’s voice. Up to this point, his voice is sort of like a blemish on an otherwise pristine surface. It’s not bad enough to make you stop listening, may even make it interesting, but causes you to hold back. 

The next 2 songs show a different characteristic to his voice without actually changing what he’s doing. The music just finally suits the nearly monotonous style of the singing. “The Children of Coyote Woman”, “41”, and the album closer, “Rats in Ruin”, almost seem like they came from a different band. 

The album returns you to regularly scheduled programming: brilliant music and subpar-if-interesting vocals. I, personally, still found that the record was a great listen, but I would understand if you don’t agree.

FFO: Deaf Radio, Agents of Oblivion, King Gizzard

-JR

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August 28, 2020


Katy Perry – Smile (Capitol Records)

Since joining the Fairly KickAss Familia (I’ll explain later), I’ve developed a greater appreciation for pop music, in all its glorious forms.  I’ve reviewed several great pop albums, including some that thoroughly surprised me in how good they were, most notably Carly Rae Jespen’s Dedicated Side B.  I’ve reviewed some pop albums that weren’t all that great.  But, Dear Readers, I must tell you that I have not reviewed a pop album with as much disdain as I will be reviewing Katy Perry’s latest release Smile with.

This isn’t one of those situations where feelings about an artist permeate to all of their works.  With Katy, I’ve enjoyed several tracks off of a wide range of her albums: from the early days of “Hot N Cold”, “The One That Got Away” and “E.T.”, to the later hits in “Roar” and “Dark Horse”.  But Smile is just… it’s just bad, y’all!

Most of Katy’s work on Smile is lifeless, listless, and phoned in, like a generic “My First Pop Album” kit that I’m surprised Walmart doesn’t already sell.  This album has everything: shoehorned electronic bits and Auto-Tuning (“Teary Eyes”), awful lyrics (“Never Really Over”: “Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it’s really over/And if I think it over, maybe you’ll be coming over again/And I’ll have to get over you all over again”), shitty hooks (“Smile”), and whatever the golden fuck “Champagne Problems” is.

Now, Momma taught me to say something nice if I’m saying anything, so here’s my nice thing: island-y romance bop “Harleys In Hawaii” is a very solid, catchy track, and love letter to love “Only Love” is decent.  Listen to those tracks, and spin some of Katy’s earlier albums if you gotta get your fix… but you can leave the rest of Smile on the shelf.

FFO: Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato

-Z.

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August 21, 2020


The Killers – Imploding The Mirage (Island)

Spotify currently has them listed as the 214th most popular act in the world. So, if you’ve never heard them, I doubt that anything you’ve read on this website is of any use to you. Even the rock you’ve been living under has “Mr. Brightside” on its iPod Nano.

Full disclosure: I’ve never really been a fan of The Killers. Sure, the hits have merit. The songs are fun, full of emotion, technically and artistically beautiful, and the lyrics are wonderfully poetic…but that voice. There’s just something about it that is a complete turnoff for me. It’s like he’s trying really hard to sound like he’s not trying hard. 

Until Imploding The Mirage

This feels like an extreme melodic shift for the band. Instead of bellowing borderline-atonal anthems in Springsteen fashion, the new method is to keep the vocals chill and let the music set the tone and energy in the style of The Pretenders, Tom Petty, or…well, Bruce Springsteen. That is most notable on the perfectly crafted, “Dying Breed”, and the surprising range shown off in “Caution”. Their Talking Heads influence comes out strong in “Fire and Bone”, making it one of the most instantly likeable tracks on the record. The two guest spots on the album, Weyes Blood and k.d. Lang (really?), are highlighted with the most dramatic moments, “My God” and “Lightning Fields”. 

Musically, there’s little more to say about the band. They add New Wave keyboards and heavily-triggered drums to classic rock-and-roll sensibilities. It’s what they have been doing since Hot Fuss came out in 2004 and it’s what they will continue to do until somebody stops them. For the first time, I am willing to say that I want them to continue. They’re maturing, and the songs are maturing with them. So, while I’m not ready to say that I like them (I mean, it took them 6 albums for me to say positive things instead of a noncommittal shrug), I am willing to look forward to the next thing.

“My Own Soul’s Warning”, “When The Dreams Run Dry”, and “Imploding The Mirage” are the tracks that sound the most like something that would fall on previous Killers releases, making them my least favorite tracks on the record. Do what you will with that information.

FFO: Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, Talking Heads

-JR

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The Podcast: The Eleventh – August 2020 In Review

The FKA crew covers their favorite new albums of the month, discuss the best new arrivals in the top 40 and play a new game to help determine the filthiest song of all time.

Zack’s Top 3 Albums of the Month:
1. Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings
2. Mach-Hommy – Mach’s Hard Lemonade
3. Alex the Astronaut – The Theory of Absolutely Nothing

Jeremy’s Top 3 Albums of the Month:
1. Blues Pills – Holy Moley
2. Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings
3. King Buzzo with Trevor Dunn – Gift of Sacrifice

Dan’s Top 3 Hit Singles of the Month:
1. Taylor Swift ft. Bon Iver – exile
2. Taylor Swift – cardigan
3. Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky