Fuel – Something Like Human
Like Matchbox 20, Fuel became my fix for hard rock music. I don’t know why they still aren’t around. Listening to this album I just assumed they would be doing the rounds 20 years later.
“Something Like Human” is the second album, released on Epic Records. It did great business in sales, double platinum in the U.S and Gold in Canada. In case you don’t know who Fuel are, its Carl Bell on guitar. Brett Scallions on vocals, Jeff Abercrombie on bass and Kevin Millar on drums.
On this album, 9 of the songs are just written by Carl Bell and two of em are Bell and Scallions co-writes.
The “Last Time” kicks it off with a memorable Chorus melody and guitar riff. “Haemorrhage (In My Hands)” is an 80’s rock song all dolled up for the 2000’s. Just listen to the verse arpeggios and you’ll know what I mean.
“Empty Spaces” is a metal like cut with a grunge like Chorus. And its cuts like this that bridged the gap between the 80’s hard rock scene and the 90’s grunge scene. Then “Scar” kicks in and the “Scar” intro riff has got groove and sleaze. Listen to it, it wouldn’t be out of place on a GnR record.
“Bad Day” is a favourite. It’s a ballad, with that C-Am-F-G chord progression (in a different key for this song). Its memorable and hooky.
“Slammed the door and said, sorry, I’ve had a bad day again”
And after 5 Carl Bell penned tracks, I’m on the floor. He is one hell of a songwriter.
The song “Prove” feels like it came from a Gunners album and it gave the album its title with its lyrics and “Easy” is probably the best song that Stone Temple Pilots didn’t write. It’s got that “Plush” vibe.
“Innocent” is my favourite cut. That sombre clean tone electric strumming gets me interested and the lyrics.
Satan, you know where I lie
Gently I go into that good night
All of us sinners are reporting for duty Mr Satan, because our innocent smiles from young are replaced with lies and hidden truths and some backstabbing along the way, because that kind of shit happened to us before, so we need to pay those people back.
All our lives get complicated / search for pleasures overrated
Status became a thing. Reagan and other leaders in the 80’s told our parents they need two cars in the driveway and investment properties and suddenly, people started to outdo each other with possessions.
Never armed our souls for what the future would hold / when we were innocent
Truth in these words. Youth doesn’t bring wisdom and we rarely practiced what we wanted our future selves to be like. And as we got older, we got smacked down by life, society and the rat race and the grind of making a living to keep the lights on.
Never were we told we’d be bought and sold, when we were innocent
More so today. Hell, we didn’t even get bought out to hand over our online activities to Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and all the rest. We are giving it all away for free, while these companies make billions selling it to advertisers.
On the special edition, there are two cover tracks in “Going To California” from Led Zep, which Fuel nails and “Daniel” from Elton John and I can hear how the acoustic riffs for “Patience” came about.
Spineshank – The Height Of Callousness
A bass player from the band I was in, recommended Spineshank to me. And they got me out of rut.
A lot of the songs have that hard core style of vocals that Slipknot and Mudvayne brought to the table, with some of the electronics that Disturbed brought and some good ole head banging.
Tracks 1 and 2 lost me, and then the intro to track 3, “Synthetic” exploded out of the speakers. And I was hooked with the intro riff which reappears in the Chorus. The song is delivered with a clean tone like vocal which is probably why it stuck with me.
And that clean tone vocal trend continues with “New Disease” and its these two songs that got me interested in the band.
The rest of the album while great for others was lost on me melodically, but each song had little riffs here and there that proved interesting.
Pearl Jam – Binaural
After the first couple of albums and their project with Neil Young, Pearl Jam had enough goodwill in my book to warrant listens of all subsequent albums after.
“Nothing As It Seems” is the song here that gets me interested, with its strummed acoustic guitar riff, some distorted guitar embellishments and Vedder delivering a hypnotic vocal.
Halford – Resurrection
“Reeeeeeeee-surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-rectionnnnnnnnnnnnnnn” screams Rob Halford and then it’s all guns blazing again once the music kicks in. And just like that, heavy metal was back in my life, exactly the way I knew it.
This is the best way to re-announce your return to the fold which by this time the metal I grew up with was known as traditional heavy metal as heavy metal in 2000 proved unrecognisable to me.
Then “Made In Hell” kicks off with its harmony guitars, and lyrics about 1968 and how metal came to be from foundries and coalmines.
The head banging continues with “Locked and Loaded” and “Night Fall”. Even though it’s a Halford album, it’s the best Judas Priest song that JP never released.
“Silent Screams” starts off with acoustic guitar arpeggios and a vocal line about “tempting fate, losing friends along the way, but still standing tall with no regrets” and then that Chorus kicks in for Halford to deliver a classic heavy metal track. The song morphs into a metal cut around the 3 minute mark before returning to its melancholy.
“The One You Love To Hate” continues the head banging with a riff that reminds me of “Lightning Strikes Again” from Dokken. It can be interchanged with the next track “Cyberworld” with Halford referencing his “Electric Eye” lyrics as inspiration.
How good is that harmony solo?
And to make it better, Halford sings a vocal melody which acts like an extra guitar lead over the harmony lead. I skip “Slow Down” and then we are into “Hell’s Last Survivor” which is another cut you can interchange with “The One You Love To Hate” and “Cyberworld”.
“Temptation” is one of those more mainstream cuts that Judas Priest has been known to do. “God Bringer Of Death” has this “Gates Of Babylon” feel from Rainbow.
The Wallflowers – Breach
Their 96 album, “Bringing Down The Horse” was everywhere in Australia and their cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” kept em in the news.
Then they dropped “Breach” and I was on the fence with it. “Sleepwalker” has some Springsteen like influences which I liked. “I’ve Been Delivered” has a synth lick which is memorable. “Mourning Train” has a drum pattern with handclaps and foot stomps with an acoustic guitar and a vocal line which I like, but that’s it.
The Offspring – Conspiracy Of One
They had momentum coming into this album with the “Smash”, “Ixnay On The Hombre” and “Americana” albums. I was in various bands that covered “Pretty Fly”, “Gone Away” and “Come Out And Play”.
So coming into this album, it was no surprise that some of the songs sounded like part 2 of previous successful songs.
For example, “Original Prankster” sounds like part 2 of “Pretty Fly”. But opening track “Come Out Swinging” is fast as punk can be with metal like riffs and picking.
“Want You Bad” sounds like those major key 80’s hard rock songs, which work so well with the power punk rock of The Offspring. “Million Miles Away” is another singalong anthem.
How good is that intro riff to “Dammit, I Changed Again”?
John Petrucci used it for “Happy Song” on his recent “Terminal Velocity” album.
And if the album could had ended after this track and I would have been okay with it as the next few tracks proved skipable.
Then “Denial, Revisited” started and it had my attention again. “Vultures” then kicks off with a riff that reminds of BoC, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”. And the title track, “Conspiracy Of One” closes the album with its “Blitzkrieg” style riff.
Zebrahead – Playmate Of The Year
It’s not on Spotify Australia, which irks me, but hey, we still have YouTube, even though the labels are fighting hard to kill off the free ad supported version of it.
That clean tone digital riff to kick off “I Am” is excellent. Then there is a bit of hip hop in the verses as that same clean tone riff plays.
“Playmate Of The Year” is now a go to song for all things to do with “Playmate” even replacing “Centrefold”.
“Go” is a hard rock cut. “Now Or Never” has an intro riff which is heavy, a hip hop verse and an anthemic melodic chorus. “Wasted” has that riff which John Petrucci brought back into our lives via “Happy Song”. A similar riff appeared on The Offspring album.
“What’s Goin On?” is one of those cuts that sums up the pop punk movement between 1998 and 2004. “All I Need” is a sneaky derivative version of “Run To The Hills” in the intro. Check it out. Then it morphs into a Nu-Metal cut.
And now we move to 1985 for part 8.