So, it’s arriving. Me myself never really cared for the Grammys, because I’m really not the target audience, but: I figured out “why not?”. I have in my possession all the albums running for best Rock album, be it digital or borrowed. This list of picks is exactly that: I can’t really guess what the Grammy Award judges think, as most of the time, they are completely wrong (not that there has been that many chances for them to be wrong, since most of the Grammy Rock Awards are recent) like when Foo Fighter’s One by One won Audioslave’s debut and Ac/Dc’s Black Ice lost to Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, just as minor examples. I will give links of all the nominees, except, of course, the albums, since just one of them is 20 tracks long (I will add my favorite song of that album). The reason why I say that I’m picking my favs instead of what I think will win is dead simple: I was astonished by the nominations. Most of the songs and albums are from groups that honestly, I have some feelings toward them… bad feelings. But I’ll try to judge what’s in observation: if it’s the best song, I don’t care if the band gave me gold, I will tell you which song, out of the five, is my favorite and why.
There’s also something I don’t quite get: there is an award for best Rock Performance and an award for best Rock Song. I guess the intention is to also award the people that write the songs, but in the case of this year grammy, all of the nominations on best Rock Performance are also on for the best Rock Song. If that’s the case, why even do it? Just give for the best rock song in these cases, I guess… if there weren’t any cover, why even bother separating? But I digress.
First off, the Best Rock Performance Award. I’m going with the order that Grammy.com gives, so it’s not in any particular order whatsoever.
Coldplay – Every Teardrop is a Waterfall
This lead single of their newest album, Mylo Xyloto, is Coldplay not taking that many chances. It reminds me a lot of Viva La Vida, but honestly, this track is way better. Viva La Vida was Coldplay trying to be cult while being pop, and although successful, was for me a huge failure. With a clever solo that at first sound perfect but honestly wears thin, Every Teardrop is a Waterfall may be one of the best songs Coldplay released in a while, at least in my opinion. The singing didn’t change since the start of Coldplay, so it has their personality, but apart from being too blasé for my taste, it is not bad. The intro is kind of cool, the beat is catchy (although it reminds me a lot of Viva La Vida, true), the lyrics don’t have any real staying power, but yeah, it’s not that bad.
The Decemberists – Down by the Water
I’ve never heard about this group, and honestly, it didn’t impress me. I was listening to it thinking: “This really sounds like some sort of R.E.M song” and sure enough, they actually did the whole album in homage to that band. Heck, it’s even Peter Buck on the guitars. But I guess that the whole atmosphere of the song is cool, the harmonica sounds like something that comes from a Green Day track (their earlier tracks, mind you), the lyrics are downer, the duet vocals are kind of lame… it’s not exactly a good song, and I don’t think that the song would be a good “get to know the band” song, since many critics affirmed that this album is completely different from the rest. But then again, maybe it isn’t. I didn’t like this song, though.
Foo Fighters – Walk
Oh, this is unfair. I wasn’t even aware of this single. I really hate Nirvana, so Foo Fighters is not exactly a group that I follow, which is a shame, since most of the songs I heard from them are great, although I haven’t heard that many (from the top of my head, Breakdown and Best of You, only)… but this song is perfect. The long calm intro, reminding me so much of great songs like David Glen Eisley’s “Sweet Victory” and Brian Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” (yes, the ballad. It starts out as a perfect ballad), devolving into this punk rock song, with spirit, a great guitar, an awesome drum beat, great vocal (kind of like his screaming in Best of You, but a little less), and of course, the lyrics are pure poetry. It is “the song” for you to stand on your own two feet again, which is a theme that is kind of overlooked nowadays. The music video won an award, and it wasn’t for nothing: it is awesome. But this is a song that can live on itself: definitely a reason to go after more of their work.
Mumford and Sons – The Cave
Another group I’ve never heard before. Could it be possible that they got the arrangement from Tally Hall? It’s a song that has that Tally Hall feel to it, but it’s not that well executed. The excuse of “being folk” works for about a millisecond, because when you look back at it, you have some pretty sloppy parts in your song. The singing transpires the accent, and I really hate that: they sound like someone trying to make a discrete brit accent, but here’s the deal: or you take the total brit highway, or you don’t. This one they took neither. The… slower part of the song is actually quite decent, with a cool guitar, some lyrics that actually go hand in hand with the song (although it really sounds like something Tally Hall would do… I wouldn’t be surprised, at least). The song isn’t exactly bad, but it definitely isn’t excellent. Did it make me more curious to know the band? Granted, it did. But other than that, the song sounds like something made on purpose (and it sounds like some of those folks McCartney recorded in his solo hay days).
Radiohead – Lotus Flower
…I hate Radiohead. I hate them since Pablo Honey. Creep was a genuinely good song, but it didn’t have anything else. And then came Ok Computer, Karma Police and Paranoid Android and that train was dead for me. So, I went into this one expecting a noisy electronic song with little to no redeeming factors whatsoever. Well… it’s not that. Besides the singing, everything is artificial, but compared to most Radiohead songs, it’s almost acoustic. The singing is Thom Yorke in his… samest, bad as it is. The song seems lacking, even for a Radiohead song. I don’t know if that ship has sailed, but Creep had a great guitar piece, where is the guitar on this one? The lyrics are like almost all Radiohead lyrics: not worth the effort to find out what it means. I went that extra mile, and it’s nothing special. Is the song complete garbage? Well… kind of. It’s one of those songs that only people that like Radiohead enjoy… so that’s not a good sign.
And my pick for this year is, obvious enough…
With pure genius song and lyrics, there weren’t any doubt about it. Strangely, all songs had something working for them, which is not usual for me: mostly, it’s “bad, bad, bad, AWESOME, bad”; but Foo Fighters’ Walk was really way better than the other ones, having something great in all aspects. Again, I’m not saying that it will win: IMO, it would be fair if they win. I would definitely pick them.
Moving along, we have Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. The nominees are:
Dream Theater – On the Back of Angels
Dream Theater is boring bad. Yes, it is. It’s like a metal melodramatic Pink Floyd, and most of their songs are a bore to listen too, and that is coming from someone that thinks Gentle Giant is okay. This one is kind of like most of their songs, with the metal feel and a lot of keyboards. The singing is the same as always and all, but… this one I’m more inclined to like. I don’t know why: it has a good feel to it. The keyboard, that is completely erratic, mixed with some riffs from an overdriven guitar, things that you would think would never mix are well executed, the guitar solo is inspired, and the bass (when on the foreground) is actually interesting, as is the drums. At the six minute mark, the song goes to a route that I wouldn’t pick (the song goes completely piano), and at all, the song is a good tune. I just think it has that overall cloud of generic music that most metal songs of now have.
Foo Fighters – White Limo
When I saw this, I was pretty excited. For the little I knew of Foo Fighters and the awesomeness that Walk presented, I was expecting a hard rock song with that formula, or something like that. What I have is nothing like that. It has a more of a metal feel to it, with screeching vocals, an annoying guitar riff repeating itself, an average to horrid record value (I would blame that on the fact that this album was recorded on old recording stuff, but Walk didn’t have a glitch, so why should this one have?) making it impossible to understand the lyrics or anything. This song is pretty bad… compared to Walk. But I guess as a standalone song, it isn’t that bad… it’s really noisy, to a point where I stop caring. Maybe it’s your idea of a great song: for me, it isn’t.
Mastodon – Curl of the Burl
I’ve never heard of this group… and I never heard anything quite like this. It has a dark guitar, a metal atmosphere, a syncopated well marked drum beat, a good guitar, a good overall feel… and to top it off, a vocal that doesn’t try anything straining to his voice… and pulls it off. Although not exactly a great song in my opinion, it made me want to know more about this group (afterwards, I’ll consult Shukin or PainKiller, I guess). Unfortunately, I don’t have much to talk about it: it doesn’t have a guitar solo (that’s a bummer) and actually, the drums kind of bore the fuck out of me. But overall, this song was quite good. It’s mostly a gut feel, but I found this song really good. The music video is also great, and I suggest checking it out.
Megadeth – Public Enemy No. 1
I already gave a chance to Megadeth, and they failed for me. This song makes me think back on it and maybe retract it. I really enjoyed this song. It’s a metal alright: you can hear the metal right from the beginning, it doesn’t try to hide its metalness. My only complaint? I hated the chorus. I really really hated the chorus. It’s like the whole song went on a pause, really, a tempo change, just to “sing” the worst chorus lyrics since Hot for Teacher. The rest of the song is awesome, though. Actually, the good points are whatever was left: the singing I found okay (you can hear the strain in his voice mostly because he is old but it gives that rusty Blues feel to it), the various guitar solos are mind blowing, the third verse with the slow drumming is also great… definitely a must hear. May be the best song Megadeth released for the less metal audience, such as myself.
Sum 41 – Blood in my Eyes
Whoa. I mean, just… whoa. The intro is sensational, but as soon as the meat of the song starts, the song completely changes, so… we have a song that promises a hell’uva song, and doesn’t deliver it in the slightest. It starts out with this very slow fingerpicking guitar, and suddenly, it gets metal, but stays awesome. But after the guy starts singing (with the most emo voice I’ve heard in a while, just saying), the ship goes away, only to be waved good-bye in the horizon. It’s not even something like “Numb”: we have no build-up to the passing from this really heavy metal song to an emo with some guitars on the back. The guitar solo is so unexpressive that I didn’t even notice it until I played it again, searching for a guitar solo: it feels like the rest of the song, and that’s a feeling that you don’t want your guitar solo to have. This song gets a thumb down.
And my pick for this year, and this was a hard one since there wasn’t any greatly special is:
This one was a hard pick, because, well, although it was the one I most complimented above, it has some things lacking, and well, I’m not exactly a metal fan. Dream Theater’s song was cool, Mastodon’s was great, but I guess that I’m a sell out for bad ass guitar solos. Sorry, that’s just me. The singing also won me over, since it’s not like, for example, Sum 41, where the guy tries as hard as he can to do something different: Dave Mustaine is in this group for about 29 years, his voice is definitely not great as probably it used to be, but he really doesn’t care.
As the next one would be “Best Rock Song”, with the same nominees from Best Performance, I won’t change my description or my pick. I’m still going with the Foo Fighters one, only if so to show the impression this song left on me: it’s definitely one of the best songs released in the last 3 years, easily even. So, let’s jump to my area of specialty: The Best Album category. Here are the nominees:
Les Paul left us in 2009. That was a great loss to everyone (maybe not for God, if there’s one), and Jeff Beck, of The Yardbird’s fame and a bunch of other places. And it’s a live album with twenty songs that were related with Les Paul. If you think there’s nowhere to go wrong, you would be thinking wrong. Here’s the problem I had with this album: the songs sound dated. Not only that, but he’s playing some songs that were already improved by other people, like for instance, I believe that in this particular album, you can find one of the worst versions of Cry Me a River I’ve ever heard (with the best being found in Mad Dogs & Englishmen). It’s a blast from the past, and must be classified as that. Is it a bad album? No, definitely not. Is it a bad tribute album? Not even close. Does Jeff Beck play bad the guitar? No way. Does the guest crap over the songs? Some. There was no completely interesting song in the album, but I enjoyed the album’s rendition of Peter Gunn, so I choose that one. Is it better than the original? No. But it’s a good song, well made by Jeff Beck.
This album has a bipolar feel to it. There are some great song in it, but they are in midst of some really bad. I’ve never heard any other album made by the Foo Fighters, but based on this one, it is kind of good, tending to a sort of great. At the same time we have great songs like Bridge Burning, Dear Rosemary, A Matter of Time and, of course, Walk, we have tame average songs like Rope, White Limo and Back & Forth and songs that sound the same. Dave Grohl’s singing was never best, overall we have some interesting guitars, and as mentioned before, it was all recorded without the aid of modern technology in Grohl’s garage: kind of a “return to the roots” sort of thinking, that doesn’t show most of the times (you can only find problems on songs like I Should Have Known and White Limo, that definitely is one of the worst of the album). Overall, not an excellent album, but it runs for my pick.
I’ve never heard anything from Kings of Leon, and it will stay that way. This album is made of fail. It sounds as exciting as the cover album. All of the songs out of this album are tamed and controlled U2 songs. Does U2 make songs like these? Yes, they do. But every single time, they mix up with some songs that make your blood pump a little. It’s just the same tame shit from track one to track thirteen. If this is what Kings of Leon stands for, I’m off this ship. Too show you my contempt towards it, I don’t know what song to pick from it. I really don’t. All the four singles are complete shit (just for you to track ’em down, “Radioactive”, “Pyro”, “The Immortals” and “Back Down South”, in chronological order, as well as in track order) and all songs sound like these. My major problem with this album is that it may be the one that wins: who knows? If it was up to me, this album wouldn’t even be nominated, but as normal, my picks don’t count for shit. This album is terrible.
For those with myopia, it’s a Red Hot Chili Peppers album. I know, it’s really obvious, with those white words in gray background in the upper portion of the cover. I never enjoyed Red Hot Chili Peppers, because of Anthony Kiedis rap singing… but I always enjoyed John Frusciante guitar and the more lyrical songs, like By The Way and Scar Tissue. This is the first album without John Frusciante, since he went on to the most obnoxious solo career ever. This album is not exactly crap, and that’s a compliment coming from me to RHCP. Their overall style is something I dislike and it is present, but most of the songs were songs I kind of enjoyed. They mix, as always, speedy songs with slow songs (after all, who would do that? Oh, yes…), but here is my problem. Although with some major changes… it’s more or less another Red Hot Chili Peppers album. They didn’t take any chances. They just laid low throughout the entire album (except with Happiness Loves Company, which is quirky and completely out of the group’s style), and I don’t know if I liked that. I’ll leave you with the intro.
I’ve never heard of Wilco. The name’s completely new to me and I can see how their songs don’t appeal to mainstream audience. They are quirky, strange, sometimes even uncomfortable… but at the same time, it’s fresh, it’s fun, it’s depressing… it’s an emotional work. There are songs that are just like creepy Tim Burton versions of Pink Floyd songs (from the top of my mind, Sunloathe), others that feels misplaced in time (Capitol City has the same effect as Seaside Rendezvous on Night at the Opera), pure and simple rocks (Standing O) overall… there wasn’t that many bad songs on this album. There were some (Born Alone and Open Mind came as a duo of bad songs), but there were also two suites that should be framed (mostly the first one). Don’t be scared by the beginning, it actually makes part of the idea. My favorite song is Pink Floyd + Tim Burton, so hope you enjoy.
And my pick is:
But let me say, it’s not a happy pick. Not to play favorites here, but Tally Hall’s Good & Evil is better than all of these five albums, combined. But, I have to admit, Wilco’s quirkiness won me over. It has this unique style, this unique atmosphere, ten solid songs, some great ideas, a great singing voice, some average to good lyrics… but compared to the other four, yeah, this album did great.
So, there you have it. My picks among the nominees from the 2011 Grammy Awards. And your picks, what are they? Do you agree whole heartedly? Do you heavily disagree? Play advocate to any of my “wrong choices” and I would enjoy arguing about it.
This is JotaKa, signing off.