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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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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July 24, 2020


Gaerea – Limbo (Season of Mist)

Gaerea is not a band. They are a “Vortex community”, “bestow[ing] their Undying Sigil to the masses”. 

For an act that has been around less than 5 years, this black metal quintet from Portugal is certainly making an impact on the global scene. The theatrics create a mystery about the group. Only 3 members of the outfit have been named, the remaining 2 shrouded under a hood bearing the Undying Sigil. 

Limbo takes us to Dante’s first circle, the hopeless wasteland where human chattel await their eternal damnation. This imagery is potent throughout the record, starting with the vivid depiction on the cover and continuing seamlessly through the music. 

Calling this “black metal” is a bit of a mislead, though. The theatrics and themes aside, the music actually feels more like doom metal, with plenty of sludgy breakdowns, atmospheric bridges, and a sense of guitar melody that you just don’t get with black metal. 

Whatever you want to call it, Limbo is relentless. It opens with a powerful overture of a song, “To Ain”, an 11-minute opus that sets the tone, theme, and sound that will occupy your earspace for 52 minutes over 6 tracks. The structure of the album is classical in nature, using movements to walk us through the “new” stages of grief: sadness, denial, anger, madness, and despair. The album closes with “Mare”, a 13-minute monolith that bookends Limbo with that same feeling of being held captive, but with chaos lurking overhead. 

I found myself listening with rapt attention. Limbo is an absolute masterpiece and Gaerea has created the perfect soundtrack to 2020. It really feels like we’re in the First Circle, awaiting damnation. I hope they don’t make us wait too long to experience the Second Circle, where we will be blown about in a violent storm without hope of rest.

Bring it on.

FFO: …And Oceans, Enthroned, Carach Angren

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July 3rd and July 10th, 2020


We owe you a bit of an apology. A lot of good music happened in July, but due to some personal things that happened during that time (not going to bore you with details), we struggled to get things written. Rest assured, we were listening and intend to remedy the lapse in posts…

Right now.


Cuddle Magic – Bath (Northern Spy)

Bath is the sixth album from Brooklyn-based sextet, Cuddle Magic, and it is a damned shame that it took me six album to hear of them. As of this writing, I have not traveled back through to their origins, but if Bath is at all indicative of their body of work, they have a fan for life.

Folk-pop is a genre that doesn’t get a ton of radio play or heated discussion outside of your local bookstore or coffee shop. It’s also rare to find a folk-pop outfit that challenges the dynamics of the genre. Bath is acoustic. It is also orchestrated to be extraordinarily intoxicating. Voices float in and out at precisely the right moments. The instrumentation is consistent by changing to suit each individual song, whether that’s a harmonica (“Gracefully”), a pump organ (“This Way”, “Eleanor”), or the simple pluck of an acoustic guitar (“Hurt a Little”, “Still In Touch”), it is the perfect accompaniment to the softly sung vocals of Benjamin and Kristin

Yeah, I learned their names. So what?

From the first moments of “What If I”, you can feel the love. Love for the music. Love for each other. Love for the listener. 

Oh, and the fun part…

The whole album was recorded live in a bathroom. That’s right! Six people, no headphones or electronic tricks. Just microphones, instruments, and pure, unadulterated talent. 

FFO: The Shins, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine

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