Month: May 2020

Green Day – 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours

ARTIST: Green Day 220px-Green_Day_-_1,039-Smoothed_Out_Slappy_Hours_cover

TITLE: 1039 / Smoothed Out Slappy Hours

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Two releases here are EPs

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you were into that scene, or are a Green Day completist.

LINEUP: Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, John Kiffmeyer. 220px-Green_Day_-_1,000_Hours_cover

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Compilation of the first album and two Eps from Green Day, released before their breakthrough (so it isn’t a cash in, really). 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: From the start of their recording career, Green Day had their vision in mind. A power-pop punk sound that combined some of the speed (but not a breakneck speed) and simple structures of punk, but with melodies that allow for singing instead of shouting. The structures also were deceptively simple with some interesting changes in some tracks. The difference is the execution, as these records are from the time when the band was finding its footing.

This release combines their first two EPs (1,000 Hours and Slappy) and their full length released in 1990 (39/Smooth). At first, they sounded tentative, but as things rolled along their sound fleshed out (Dirnt’s bass becomes a bit louder in the mix, and Kiffmeyer’s drums are more expressive). The songs, as usual penned lyrically by Billy Joe Armstrong, are a bit more intelligent than some of their punk brethren at the time. Green_Day_-_Slappy_cover

This collection shows the growth of the band, but they weren’t quite at their peak yet. It would take the next release to coalesce and set the stage for their dominance of the punk matketplace in the 90’s. It’s worthy to see where they were before the big stage of a major label, and why some fans glommed onto them early on.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Drummer John Kiffmeyer was billed as Al Sobrante at times. He started to study at Humboldt State, and the band picked up drummer Tre Cool to take his place. The rest is history (though the split was seeming amicable).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The last release omits a track that was used on a soundtrack.220px-Green_Day_-_39-Smooth_cover

 GRADE B: I have a soft spot for power punk pop, and while they would get better and more expansive there’s something charming about these tracks.

Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

ARTIST: Sia  220px-Sia_-_1000_Forms_of_Fear_(Official_Album_Cover)

TITLE: 1000 Forms of Fear

YEAR RELEASED: 2014

CHART ACTION:  #1 US, #5 UK

SINGLES: Chandelier (#8 US, #6 UK), Big Girls Cry (#103 US, #77 UK), Elastic Heart (#17 US, #10 UK), Fire Meets Gasoline (#193 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Burn the Pages, Cellophane.

LINEUP: Sia and Greg Kurstin. Jessie Shatkin and Nick Valensi helped on a track each.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After taking a break (or retiring) from performing because of mental health issues, a surprise hit led her back to the studio after a while and she released her most focused album yet.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After writing “Titanium” with hopes of it landing with Alicia Keys, and finding it released by David Guetta with her demo vocals on it, Sia became more famous than she had been, especially in the US. So having stepped back from recording to write songs, she found herself in the studio again with Greg Kurstin and delivered this set of passionate, bombastic pop songs.

While over the top at times, the production fits Sia’s intent on the tracks, especially on the smash “Chandelier”. Yet the album touches on a lot of subjects and touches on them well. Sia’s songs are personal, and at times heart-rendering, as she was fighting demons upon demons in her life, which led to her original retirement.

The deep cuts, like “Hostage” and “Straight to the Knife”, are where the meat of the album lives. She poured everything into all of the songs, telling a story and not just gunning for hits or radio play. But with her natural ability for hooks and melody, she got them. This is a much better record than her earlier efforts, and improves with multiple listens.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was at this time where Sia decided to cover her face, and let her art speak for herself.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, acoustic piano cuts and other mixes.

 GRADE A-: This is a modern pop album that grows on you.