Volume 93, Issue 52
Wednesday, December 1, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Undercovers reveal nothing promising
A general, yet widely accepted criticism of the Canadian ska scene, lies in the heavy organs and slow paced drum beats which colour so much of the genre. Acting as a typical example, The Undercovers have proven why the Canadian ska scene continues to struggle.
The band's latest effort, Some People, doesn't exactly veer from the beaten ska path, it just steers close to the edge. While the album does prove to be slightly catchy from start to finish, as a whole, it fails to attract an audience.
Although none of the songs deserve ardent praise or criticism, the album still has clear strengths and weaknesses. The unfortunate part is from the outset, the album showcases the latter. The opening track, "Standing Alone," fails with its heavy chords, choppy horns and chorus of frenzied voices and instruments, setting a mood of disappointment for the rest of the album.
Luckily, the song has a quick finish and the album jumps to the next track, "Sipping Sunshine," in an attempt to reconcile. This particular melody begins slow, but sticks it out and becomes the album's most memorable song. It's not a complex formula by any means, however the harmonies combined with screaming horns and a constant upstroke guitar, are sure to linger in your head all day.
Specific songs, such as "Johnny Starr," a ballad about suicide, clearly demonstrate the band's hidden talent. This song is comprised of a progressive bass line, a constant reggae-style drum beat and consistent vocal harmonies which all blend perfectly.
Weighing in against this bright spot, however, is "Ghetto Blaster," which sounds like a horrible alternative song, beginning with a solo guitar and singing. Eventually, after headache-provoking repetition and emptiness, the rest of the instruments decide to kick in to officially complete the album's low point.
The last song, "Scotch On The Rocks," is a slow four minute blues style track, providing a change in style which is well overdue. Like all the other tracks, though, it drags on and isn't enough to turn the album around as a whole.
Almost every song, with just a few exceptions, is acceptable and some may even become appreciated with repetitive listening. However, the CD is lyrically weak and each song tends to directly replicate the previous. It's safe to say The Undercovers will remain undercover until they manage to produce some better songs.
Live Era '87-'93
For those eagerly anticipating the newest release from the original skid rock hair band, Guns N' Roses, a momentary diversion has arrived in the form of their newest live collection Live Era '87-'93.
Harbour no hopes of unreleased original fare, for this album is devoted strictly to older material. Thankfully, however, there are no excerpts taken from the horrendous 1993 Spaghetti Incident chapter of the band's career.
This live compilation showcases songs originally released on such albums as 1987's Appetite For Destruction, 1988's GN' R Lies and 1993's classic double collection Use Your Illusion I and II. Live Era '87-'93 has all the requisite crowd noises, rough choppiness and classic Axl Rose wails which characterized the group's meteoric rise.
One almost feels transported back to the '80s when the first album begins a time when cut-off T-shirts, bandanas and Harley Davidson emblems dominated music videos. Tears of remembrance flow with memories of Slash's wild curls bent over a thrumming guitar, which was made the perfect stereotype when he jammed a lit cigarette into its frets.
Old Guns N' Roses standards are found here and remain preserved for all eternity. "Welcome to the Jungle," "Patience," "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" are as infectious as ever, still managing to remain acceptable despite their age. The little quirks which made the band great are also represented, from Axl's fire engine-like wails (starting low and ending ear-shatteringly high) on "You Could Be Mine," to his incessantly long piano ramblings on "November Rain."
Of course, creating such an anthology would require a serious look back at the group's dynamic and their long road to success. Thankfully, Live Era takes one back through the band's beginnings via impressive cover work. The casing is littered with old representations of concert posters, back from when the boys called themselves "Hollywood Rose" and played gigs at California clubs such as The Roxy and Troubadour. Turning to the liner, fans can see their evolution from pasty punks to pasty icons, as old band promo shots give way to stadium venue pictures.
In short, Live Era '87-'93 promises to be an essential addition to any fan's collection. Though it may not be filled with original songs or beautifully mastered tracks, it's the perfect foil for this flawed, but talented rock institution.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999