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The B-52’s – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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The B-52’s – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Released the year I was born, The B-52’s wouldn’t appear on my radar for a number of years, but Cosmic Thing and the addictive Love Shack would have a lasting impression on me as by 1989, my love of music exploration was already developing and I simply devoured their rock meets dance meets classic pop styling. However, it wasn’t until Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MOFI) reissued The B-52’s, Wild Planet, and Cosmic Thing on vinyl, via their Silver Label, that I once again paid serious attention to the new wave Artpop band and their entire back catalogue. 

One may wonder what I think of the B-52’s MOFI releases. Well, I’ve yet to pick any of them up as I have mixed emotions about MOFI’s silver label pressings. Of the two I own, Dead Can Dance’s Spiritchaser is remarkably good while Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July has just never sounded quite right, despite the pressing being perfect. Yes, dear reader, the mastering is key here and the style differences between the aforementioned records also need to be taken into consideration. That said, I’m once bitten, twice shy! Despite this, these B-52’s records remain on my lengthy wish list and we’ll just have to wait and see if/when I acquire them. If I do pick up these releases, you’ll be able to read about it here on Subjective Sounds. For the moment, however, the Mastered for iTunes edition, as streamed via Apple Music, is thoroughly enjoyable with a presentation that isn’t fatiguing or jarring on the senses. 

Planet Claire has an atmospheric start that is akin to any spy film you’ve likely seen from the era. As a fan of such films, this entrance captures my attention and is one of the very best songs to have ever led a debut album. I love it!

52 Girls, by comparison, is rather raw and underproduced. It isn’t fundamentally bad, but it really needed a little more spit and polish as the mix makes it sound like a demo, rather than a fully fleshed out recording. No more apparent is this than in the vocal tracking whereby it sounds distant and concealed in the mix. A B-side at best. 

Dance This Mess Around is a little left of the centre, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just takes a little getting used to. 

Rock Lobster is responsible for the mess and masterpiece that is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy. I’m not a fan of Ono’s tracks on that album and while Lennon heard a similarity between Rock Lobster and Ono’s music, I don’t as I find Rock Lobster is musically and lyrically compelling. I could listen to it on repeat indefinitely. Whereas, I struggle to listen to Double Fantasy in a linear manner. Regardless, Rock Lobster is an absolute classic. 

Lava is one of my all-time favourite B-52 songs. I love the double entendre and the blues-based rock styling. That said, does anyone else hear a little Stevie Nicks influence in the vocal on this song?

There’s A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon) is fantastic and logically witty. While it isn’t the strongest song on the album, I thoroughly enjoy it.

Hero Worship is a solid B-Side, but there is a better song hidden here just waiting to be revealed. While I don’t agree with artists re-recording their songs, in an attempt to change the mistakes based on years of reflection, there are songs, such as Hero Worship, that I would love to see The B-52’s re-record. 

6060-842 has a catchy rhythm and lyric. Yet, just like 52 Girls and Hero Worship, it sounds underproduced and is subsequently a B-Side that offers nothing to write home about.

Downtown is a cover of the classic made famous by Petula Clark. Honestly, it isn’t a great cover and it subsequently doesn’t compel me to listen to the album again. A shame considering the rest of the album, even the B-Sides, do encourage me to listen to the album on repeat. 

Overall, The B-52’s is an incredible and thoroughly enjoyable debut that is mostly polished with the sonic cues that would ultimately catapult The B-52’s to increased popularity as they further refined their sound. Is it worth owning? Well, to be completely honest, I’m unsure. There are some truly exceptional songs on this release with a few B-Sides interspersed. It is these B-Sides that cause conflict in my mind, although I will acknowledge that the more you listen to the album, the more it grows on you. Therefore, it is possible that I’ll grab a vinyl reissue at some stage, but the price would need to be right.

If you’d like to own The B-52’s Self-Titled debut, it is available on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

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Midnight Oil - Red Sails In The Sunset (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Red Sails In The Sunset (Album Review)

As I’m currently reviewing Midnight Oil's catalogue in chronological order, some of you may wonder why 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 has been overlooked. The good news is, I reviewed 10 to 1 in 2015 and you can read that review here. The subjective opinions expressed in that review remain relevant.

I should also add that the Midnight Oil box sets have arrived in record stores. I had a chance to look at the Full Tank CD collection, it’s rather impressive. It is certainly a unique collectable that will have fans drooling. I didn’t, however, get a chance to see the vinyl box set and I still think I would prefer that edition. Yes, dear reader, I have yet to place my order, but it is on my to-do list. Although, I will have to wait for the second pressing as the first pressings have already sold out. Some retailers may still have stock. However, it may be best to wait as there has been a pressing error on the first batch of releases, Stars Of Warburton appears twice on Side A of Blue Sky Mining. Please see the announcement for more information. Perhaps this is why the set is appearing to be sold out. I guess if you really want an edition with the error, you better go crate digging ASAP. Either way, it also gives me time to check out some reviews and see what other fans think, before placing the final order. Perhaps I am procrastinating too much, but either option isn’t cheap, so this music loving fan must ensure it is worth the investment.

Red Sails In The Sunset has a particularly disturbing cover of my hometown being destroyed in nuclear warfare that resembles the desolate craters on Mars. That said, I do appreciate the art style. I just hope, as I'm sure many Sydneysiders do, that our beautiful city is never exposed to such devastation.

Midnight Oil hit a home run with Red Sails In The Sunset as it would be their first album to reach No.1 in Australia and would go on to be certified 4x Platinum. Interestingly, the album would only produce two singles, When The Generals Talk and Best Of Both Worlds. I mention this because success in 1984 was still determined largely by successful charting of numerous singles and associated music videos.

When The Generals Talk is an incredible rock song that is immediately addictive. The various vocal techniques build character and you will be singing along to the chorus in no time. The song is reminiscent of the 80’s sound, but I don't feel it is dated to that period. It is, without a doubt, one of their best songs.

Best Of Both Worlds is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. I detest the introduction and shrill musicality that accompanies it. However, once the song gets going, I actually don't mind it. It seems to be a trend that I generally dislike many fan favourites. I can assure you, it is not intentional.

Sleep is an incredible song with an acoustic introduction that I adore. It is a slower composition than we generally expect from Midnight Oil, yet it is perfectly suited to their style of music. The backing vocals and musicality heard on When The Generals Talk is applicable here and I would have preferred Sleep to be the second track on the album. Regardless, it is a must listen and should be on every compilation they release.

Minutes To Midnight is a little too disjointed for my liking. I simply feel the song never truly arrives and it sounds like a studio demo. Despite that, I still hear promise amongst the chaos. I’m not always a fan of remixes, but a remix of this song would likely yield fantastic results.

Jimmy Sharman's Boxers is an incredible sonic composition. I love it!

Bakerman is a fun instrumental interlude.

Who Can Stand In The Way is a song I neither like or dislike. As I listen to this song, my mind becomes lost as there is more than one rhythm present in the track. Such confusion, unfortunately, prevents a pleasurable listening experience.

Kosciusko thankfully returns the rhythm to the pleasure centre of the brain. This is a song I have always enjoyed, yet I feel from a musical perspective that it is a little too shrill, but it is my hope that the vinyl limitations, with the new re-issues, will correct this problem. That said, to change the tonality of the song, one would also destroy the composition. Any shift represents an extremely fine line to walk and this is arguably a key reason why I believe that tone and bass controls, along with manual equalisers, are still essential.

Helps Me Helps You is another scattered song that I simply don't connect with. Although, I do love the didgeridoo at the beginning of the song.

Harrisburg slows the pace of the album, but it offers no competition to Sleep as Harrisburg is rather erratic in places. It is very experimental, but the results are less than favourable. Remove the sonic experimentation and what remains is a solid B-side.

Bells And Horns In The Back Of Beyond is a solid B-side but is nothing to write home about. Although, I truly enjoy the instrumental aspects of this song.

Shipyards Of New Zealand is not a bad song, but it follows a number of disjointed experimental compositions that has resulted in a mediocre album, with some absolutely exceptional moments. Unfortunately, as a final song on the album, it doesn't compel me to listen to the album again or stay within the Midnight Oil catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the 1988 master on Tidal Hi-Fi. This edition is most likely the same master that would have been used for the original 1985 CD.

I also listened to the 2008 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi, but it was too loud, and subsequently too shrill, to adequately enjoy. I literally had to turn my stereo down by 5-10% and that sadly didn't help the sonic destruction that had occurred in this remaster.

Interestingly, I had to turn the 1988 edition up by 10%. It reminded me of vinyl in that respect, but most importantly, I was in charge of the loudness being reproduced. Subsequently, there was no disintegration of sound or brickwalling when listening to this digital master.

Red Sails In The Sunset is available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Place Without A Postcard (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Place Without A Postcard (Album Review)

Thus far, in my cycle of reviews to determine if I will pick up the soon-to-be-released Midnight Oil vinyl box set, I have determined that it would be a worthwhile addition to my collection. That said, Place Without A Postcard leaves me with mixed feelings as the band experimented with their tried and tested formula by introducing more pop elements into their songs.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with power pop, the shift in musical direction simply lacks the energy heard on their self-titled debut Midnight Oil and sophomore album Head Injuries.

Don't Wanna Be The One is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. Yes, dear reader, I am once again questioning how a Midnight Oil song becomes a fan favourite. Okay, so there’s a good backbeat and there is nothing wrong with Garrett's vocal delivery, but I find the song to be too shrill in places. I also don’t connect with the song on an emotional level. I hear it, but I don't listen to it! I can assure you I have tried. I have listened to the original 1981, 1997 (as heard on 20,000 Watt R.S.L.), and 2008 masters and despite their different tonalities, none talk to me.

Brave Faces, by comparison, is a stronger song. It has an addictive rhythm and I just adore the instrumental backing to Garrett's vocals. Brave Faces should have been the album opener in my opinion.

Armistice Day is exceptional! It is arguably the best song on the album and one of the best in their catalogue. From the electric guitar introduction to the solid beat and Garrett's near A cappella vocal, it is nothing short of a perfect rock and roll song.

Someone Else To Blame, unfortunately, fails to maintain the high standard that can be heard on Armistice Day. It is filler! Nothing more, nothing less.

Basement Flat is a mixed bag as the vocal introduction and chorus are superb, along with the mid-song guitar solo. Yet, I find the verse to be rather irritating as I don't feel it helps the song progress either in literary terms or musically. That said, I do feel there is more good here than bad and subsequently Basement Flat is enjoyable to listen to.

Written In The Heart is a great song that, while pop/rock based, also pays homage to the punk origins of the band. As with many of their songs, the strength here is absolutely heard in the self-indulgent musicality.

I absolutely love the introduction of Burnie. Unfortunately, as the track progresses past the first minute, it becomes apparent that the song isn't as tight as it should be. It really sounds as though a demo tape was used to fill in the blanks of an otherwise exceptional performance.

Quinella Holiday isn't a bad song, but it isn't exceptional either.

Loves On Sale has a beautiful instrumental and vocal introduction but falls apart as the speed of the song and Garrett's vocals reach punk pace. While it isn't a bad song, it could have been so much better.

If Ned Kelly Was King should have never made it past the demo stage. It has some nice instrumental work, but no other aspect of the song appeals to me.

Lucky Country, as the final track on the album, does not encourage me to listen to the album again or stay within the Midnight Oil catalogue. I’d like to say something nice about it, but anything positive would be disingenuous. That said, perhaps we need substandard songs to ensure we fully appreciate the exceptional songs that Midnight Oil has given us over the years.

While Place Without A Postcard lacks the focus of their earlier albums. I'm not going to let a few B- sides prevent me from buying the re-issued vinyl collection when it is released. After all, the same scenario didn’t stop me buying Queen’s Studio Collection.

This review was based on listening to the 2008 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Interestingly, the original 1981 master is also available on TIDAL, but upon listening to it, I found it to be sonically concealed by comparison. That said, you may prefer it and therefore I suggest you listen to the edition that you subjectively prefer.

Place Without A Postcard is available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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