Here’s a band that’s kind of fallen off the radar recently. Unless you’re in the right groups, you probably haven’t heard much, if any, of their last two albums. And for good reason: they’re widely regarded as the band’s worst. Dystopia, however, brings the band right back into the sound that you know and recognize from the 80s and 90s.
I was a little nervous about playing this album after their last two flops, but immediately after starting The Threat Is Real, the only thought that ran through my head was, “Yup, that’s Megadeth”. They’re one of those bands with an unmistakable sound; you can hear a quick, two second clip and you just know who it is. The fast, aficionado style guitar interspersed with occasional wailing riffs and the relentlessly heavy drum beats all overlaid with Dave Mustaine’s signature growl are a dead giveaway and are reassuringly familiar in Dystopia.
The album’s lyrics unsurprisingly follow a dystopian theme, yet they’re cryptic enough to leave you thinking about each song long after it ends. I always want to know what an artist was thinking when they wrote their songs, and Megadeth leaves enough of a puzzle to solve that it keeps me curious, trying to dig for more context behind each song that I hear.
Several songs give you a false start as you think that the album will take a turn towards some softer instrumentals, or at least vocals, before punching you in the face with more thrash. It’s a little jarring, but it fits with the overall feeling of unease and distrust throughout the album. Before you can fully recover, you get sucked into the amazingly complex guitar riffs which, despite moving at a million miles an hour, are startlingly mesmerizing.
The Violent Femmes returned after a 16 year absence in the recording studio early in March with their new album We Can Do Anything. Overall I like the album and it brings back that familiar, although slightly more matured, sound which reaches all the way back to their eponymous first release.
Admittedly, I’ve never been a huge Violent Femmes fan. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just never really paid too much attention to them. So I was a little shocked and my first thought when starting the album was, “So that’s where Against Me! got their influence from”. This revelation probably comes as no surprise to anybody who really follows the genre, but it immediately made me much more receptive to the album (I first discovered Against Me! when I saw them open for the Dropkick Murphys and I’ve been obsessed ever since). Later on I even see glimpses of common elements shared with Gogol Bordello and the Femmes’ impact on punk rock becomes more apparent. I always knew how important they were for the scene, but making those connections for myself really solidifies that idea.
Despite staying true to their own style, even within the first three songs you’ll be taken on an interesting ride from the classical punk sound in Memory, to the other end of their spectrum with much more folk influence in I Could Be Anything, to the slower, droning song Issues. It’s all clearly the Femmes though and you could easily identify any of these songs as theirs even if you heard them without knowing who was playing. This continues on throughout the entire album as they cover their entire range of sounds, jumping seemingly at random from one song to the next, even jumping into a country ballad for the song Untrue Love.
Hearing some other people’s opinions on the album, a common complaint is this feeling that the quality of the lyrics have fallen and that Gordon Gano isn’t the songwriter that he used to be. Maybe this is true, like I said, I haven’t really followed their entire discography, but nitpicking over the use
of words like, “berzerkers,” seems overly harsh. He makes it work in the song and even though punk rock deals a lot with serious issues, it’s pretty common for the artists to not take themselves entirely seriously. Plus let’s be honest, there’s a lot more ridiculous lyrics in top 40 songs which nobody bats an eye at.
The quick changes in sound from song to song make this album good for jumping around from task to task when you’re high. Focusing on getting one big job done might be a little difficult, but if you have a handful of smaller things to do which you’ve been putting off, this would be a good album to listen to.
We all have those things that we know are easy and don’t really take that much time: straightening up your desk, loading the dishwasher, folding that last load of laundry. We Can Do Anything is up tempo enough to get you motivated and energized for a couple minutes at a time with a couple of slower breaks interspersed throughout. With a run-time of only 30 minutes, you could easily bust out a few tasks by the time the album is over without feeling like you’re throwing away a huge portion of your day to get it all done.
This isn’t my favorite album I’ve reviewed, but by no means do I dislike it and it keeps growing on me the more I listen to it. It’s a little hard to settle on a rating, but I give it a 4 out of 5. It’s given me a new interest in the band and although I’ll only have We Can Do Anything on moderate rotation, it’s given me the inspiration to go back through their discography and try giving the Violent Femmes a fair chance. There’s a ton of elements that I like a lot and I’m hoping to see in a more raw form in their earlier works.