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LAdY GAGA Born this Way (streamline/ KonLive/ Interscope)

// REVIEWS //

INdancing GAGA WE TRUST queen pulls off her crusade of rock-fueled, religious-tinted electro-gasms

Lady gaga’s on a mission to save the world from right-wing conservatism and obnoxious boredom on her raw and ambitious sophomore album born this Way. the reason why gaga is “tricking” up her album with tougher rules and guidelines may surround the idea that she’s tired of being pegged as a singles’ artist. Certainly she’s sold millions of copies worldwide of the Fame and her follow-up EP the Fame Monster, but her singles are especially hard to rival with. Each single dispersed from gaga’s camp gives rihanna and Katy Perry the hives. so it is with every intention for gaga to boldly amp up her anecdotes, strange use of metaphors (unicorns, bloody Mary, muscle bikes, oh my), religious obsessions (“i’ll dance with my hands above my head like Jesus”) and adventurous leaps into hypnotic choruses. she also engages in more musical risks by mixing bumping club beats with an overload of Eighties pop, epic rock and…need we say it…more Madonna. Certainly the title track – bearing all the familiar vibes of Madonna’s “Express yourself” – garners the most attention for becoming one of the gayest gay anthems to hit the pop charts since diana ross’s 1980 coming-out hit (“don’t be a drag, just be a queen”), but it’s far from being crowned the album’s glorious moment. the Elton John-pacing of “you and i,” co-produced by Mutt Lunge, places the glitzy glitter gal right in the heart of nashville soul. it’s a very different wardrobe for her, but one that proves she has the gutsy pipes to tackle a southern rock ballad. “bad Kids” is a delicious mash-up of hard aggressive ‘90’s dub bass with a breeze of Madonna pop on the chorus. and “the Edge of glory” leaves open space for Clarence Clemons to blow his sax as if he was giving gaga her own “Jungleland.” she also bends the ear of the dance world with more disarming genre-bending strategies, like bollywood and “bad romance” remnants on “Judas,” like opera on the sloppy electros of “government hooker,” like trance club pounces akin to “Pokerface” and glimmers of the Eurythmics on “highway unicorn (road to Love).” Even “Electric Chapel” provides a sensible blend of ‘80’s rock and orgasmic Eurodisco. sometimes the experiments fall flat, particularly on “americano,” which slices Mexican guitar and the romantic strings of Latin music into a bad “alejandro” knockoff. but gaga isn’t afraid to bend the rules as she squeezes mind-blowing, ear-popping robotics into the echoes of Eighties guitar-fueled rock. gaga has unequivocally gone on the record to suggest that born this Way is the album of her career. that’s easy to say when you’re only two albums into your career. but it’s easy to believe her assessment. she works harder on this one to try to appeal to the masses and as strange as it sounds, it doesn’t sound like the disaster it should’ve been. somehow, someway gaga turns her wacky collage into an interesting, bewildering showcase of experimental disco that isn’t meant to satisfy dance floor novices. J MatthEW Cobb

sPIn thIs! “the Edge of glory,” “bad Kids,” “highway unicorn (road to Love),” “you and i”

MY CheMICAL rOMAnCe danger days: the true Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (reprise)

it’s tough being relevant as an emo band when subtler indie music has slowly replaced the last remnants of trL-inspired pop excesses, leaving even artsier bands like My Chemical romance with a true dilemma regarding stylistic direction. Coming off their first major success with the blistering, punkier three Cheers For sweet revenge, lead singer gerard Way and company responded with the emo rock-opera the black Parade, leaving fans and critics wondering how they could manage to top it all with their 2010 followup danger days: the true Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. unfortunately, it seems that MCr wasn’t really sure themselves, so they just made another concept album, this time with a blander blend of straight-up pop-rock, a less cohesive narrative, and lyrics that fail to resonate quite as they had before. the story this time around is that the band’s alter egos (as the titular Fabulous Killjoys) are living in a post-apocalyptic america, but the only real hint of this beyond the cover art is the occasional interlude by a snarky radio dJ whose colorful quips barely tie the whole theme together. so, after a quick introduction by dJ death defying, the band hits hard with their energetic first single, “na na na,” and its incessantly juvenile and repetitive refrain before heading on to the more-typical MCr track that is “bulletproof heart,” which despite its resemblance to earlier hits, lacks the same caliber of depth and conviction. scouring the wastes for a glimpse of hope, the two strongest tracks on danger days feature an evolved form of the raw, guttural vocals and urgent instrumental parts MCr fans have come to expect. as such, “Planetary (go!)”’s infectiously unbridled dance-rock and “destroya”’s tense combination of world percussion and rising minor-scale string lines stand out amongst a host of less-inspired tunes. danger days’ low points include the forgettable

“Party Poison,” the oddly-saccharine “summertime,” and the totally unjustifiable bonus track “Vampire Money,” which was written for one of the twilight films but added here (despite not relating to the theme at all) since MCr pulled out of the soundtrack deal. Furthermore, there is a noticeable omission of any true slow songs on danger days, even though the slower pacing made for a nice counterpoint to the band’s otherwise frantic riffing on previous albums. sure, the dJ interludes do offer some welcome respite, but they’re not featured enough to give the album the kind of effective dynamic contrast it needs. ultimately, while danger days does manage to be an acceptable pop-rock album, its change in stylistic direction for the band, unconvincingly presented concept, lack of lyrical depth, and inability to connect with the listener, makes it an unfortunate misstep for the outfit. thus, barring the chance that the band just needs one more shot at reinventing itself, this might be a sign that MCr’s fictional death in the black Parade might have actually been less fictional than the band intended. ryan burruss

sPIn thIs! “Planetary (go!),” “destroya”

FLeet FOXes helplessness Blues (Bella union/sub Pop)

in the first couple of seconds of hearing Fleet Foxes’ helplessness blues, your ears would tell you that you’re listening to Mumford & sons with a flogging towards a psychedelic beatles epiphany. Fleet Foxes took on the task of fusing americana with simon & garfunkle folk pop on their debut LP, but this time around – on helplessness blues – robin Pecknold opens up his soul and the lower cavity of his heart to create captivating poetry about self-discovery and

life’s unanswered questions while trying to create some kind of transcendence to hope. that’s because Pecknold decides to be Jacob on the altar, laying his ego aside to place his feelings on the frontline. but even with its interesting autobiographical architecture, helplessness blues is blessed with supple angelic boys’choir harmonies and glorified melodies. the music, sweltering in dylanesque, reaches a refinement of sweet romanticism on the surface while building its emotions on the backs of heartbreak and frustration. the eight-minute epic “the shrine/an argument” walks through the last stages of a failing relationship, pushing through walls of contemplation, anger and closure. With every emotional shift, the music makes a similar transition. songs like the title cut (“helplessness blues”) puts Pecknold in a dungeon of darkness, questioning his own destiny: “i was raised up believing i was somehow unique/Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes unique in each way you can see/and now after some thinking, i’d say i’d rather be/a functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.” these are all definitely sad feelings, adamantly carving out the poems about hopelessness, but these feelings feel real. Like soul searching in a very dylanesque kind of way. but dylan unmasked a great deal of proverbial chatter after babbling through verses loaded with mysteries. Pecknold chooses to gaze to the sky and camps out in his isolation. despite the weariness of the topics and the overcast of gloom, there is some upbeat melodic folk in the mix, particularly songs like “battery Kinzie” and “Lorelai.” and then there’s “blue spotted tail,” which glides like a heartfelt lullaby as Pecknold perfectly coos alongside a warm acoustic guitar. Pecknold does a remarkable job in not making his gloom look like doom. this is totally not a dido record. instead, Pecknold turns his helplessness into euphoric art. at the core, helplessness blues is a gorgeous record that feels effortless and almost timeless. J MatthEW Cobb

sPIn thIs! “Montezuma,” “helplessness blues,” “Lorelai”

HiFi Magazine #2 (Aug/Sept 2011)  
HiFi Magazine #2 (Aug/Sept 2011)  

HIFI Magazine is the new, official resource for the avid music lover. From rock to pop, R&B to hip-hop, HIFI Magazine strives to incorporate...

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