Faith No More - King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime
Showstealer Mike Patton was the best thing to ever happen to Faith No More. Without his insane vocals, much of which was likely to have inspired Serj Tankian three years after this record dropped, this would've been just another fairly standard, albeit highly eclectic, alternative metal album. Thankfully, however, the album does
feature his insane vocals, which makes it easy for me to put my stamp of approval on it.
My only problems involve the album's overall messiness, because they did get a little experimental on this one by infusing their brand with a bunch of other styles, such as jazz or funk. Sometimes it kinda works, sometimes it kinda doesn't, and I find myself leaning towards the louder, faster, and more straightforward cuts. The pacing is also all over the place, and the tracks will shift dizzingly between two completely different tempos, making it seem as though very little thought went into the continuity or interplay between each track. In other words, there may not be a single dud in the track listing itself, but my problem is that they're just not organized very well.
It also kind of ends on a relatively unsatisfactory note, with the closing track being a slower ballad that doesn't feel like it even belongs on the record. Without these issues, this may have been a solid candidate for an 8/10.7/10
Big L - Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
Debut (and only) album
Definitely one of the stronger '95 hip hop releases so far. L was a renowned emcee, known especially for his darkly witty lyrics and his punchy, aggressive flow. The soccer moms who generalize all hip hop music and think it's all just a bunch of violent, misogynistic drivel are probably referring to this album specifically. It's a pretty tough listen, especially for 1995.
Most of the tracks were produced either by Lord Finesse or Buckwild, and I have to say, they did a bang-up job, because the beats on this thing are pretty awesome. I feel as though, whenever I talk about these older rap records, I'm always having to tack on that "it's a little dated" caveat, but in this case, I honestly think the instrumentals are good even by 2019 standards.
Whether I give this an 8/10 in the future will likely depend on how much I'm willing to overlook the misogyny and homophobia in the lyrics. I'm not the type to completely dismiss an artist based on that kind of stuff alone, but it does factor into whether I can fuck with you as a person, and one's personality is obviously a huge component of what gives hip hop its appeal. So that's my biggest issue. I could never call myself a Big L fan, because I can't get behind half the shit he's actually saying on the record, no matter how well or fast he's able to spit it.
I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up that Big L hasn't actually been with us since 1999. His life was sadly cut short after being gunned down in a drive-by, so he never had the opportunity to mature as a person or an artist, in spite of his insane potential. Nonetheless, he still left his impact, even if he's only remembered these days by the inner circles of oldhead hip hop culture.7/10
Mudhoney - My Brother the Cow
Grunge is one of my all-time favorite genres, and I acknowledge that we probably wouldn't even have it if not for early adopters like Mudhoney, but that doesn't necessarily mean I have to care for their particular brand of the style. Similar to other bands I've covered so far, like Railroad Jerk, this is a very spotty record that just sounds kinda half-assed to me. Not a very exciting or memorable listen at all, save a handful of cuts that have some mildly interesting riffs.
It pains me to say it, because I really do wanna love these guys, but their music just doesn't do enough for me to be able to say that.6/10
Juliana Hatfield - Only Everything
Most of the time, Juliana's vocals have an infectiously playful spunk to them, but sometimes they don't. The album's at its best when it's fiery and energetic, but even then, I wouldn't be able to single out any specific track as a particularly good one, or even one that I'd be willing to necessarily share with anyone. It's basically a C-grade passable alternarock effort at the end of the day, but I can certainly hear the potential for something greater.6/10
Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
Speaking of dead rappers, ODB actually had his own debut in '95 as well (as a solo artist—obviously, he's better known as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan), and it's yet another rock-solid rap album.
I'm cognizant that I've given a 7/10 to most of the rap albums I've covered, so here's how I'd rank it among the rest:
1. The Roots - Do You Want More?!!!??!
2. Big L - Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
3. Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
4. Smif-N-Wessun - Dah Shinin'
5. 2Pac - Me Against the World
6. E-40 - In a Major Way
7. DJ Quik - Safe + Sound
8. Too Short - Cocktails
*If Tricky's Maxinquaye
could be considered a hip hop album, I'd rank it above The Roots.
What makes this particular record special is the sheer character of ODB. He's easily the most colorful and unhinged member of of the Wu-Tang Clan, and what he lacks in technical skill, he makes up in personality. He delivers all of his bars with a deranged yelp, kinda like Danny Brown, and his lyrics are known for their uninhibited crudeness, trashy subject matters, and an unmistakable air of drug-addled degeneracy—but unlike a Too Short, he actually has a great sense of humor, and comes across as genuinely funny.
My inability to take the album seriously, however, is perhaps the source of its biggest weakness. ODB's drug abuse would end up getting him killed in 2004, demonstrating that his lifestyle is not one to be imitated or glorified—which he thankfully never really does on this record, but unlike a Danny Brown, there is a distinct reluctance to talk about the darker side of being a user. It's not all fun and games, and ODB's general apathy towards that notion is mainly what is stopping me from giving this one a higher score. I'd still recommend it, though.7/10
Skid Row - Subhuman Race
Sebastian Bach and the gang tried going heavy on this album, since the glory days of glam were long gone at this point, and they were too cool for the grunge bandwagon. And while Bach's vocals are still as good as ever, much of the instrumentation here leaves much to be desired. Uninspired songwriting, boring riffs, piss simple song structures, and tired lyrical cliches abound. It's frustrating, because I can't outright call it a bad album, but it's just so unmemorable and painfully bereft of everything that I strive to hear from a rock record that I struggle find anything positive to say about it.5/10
Suddenly, Tammy! - We Get There When We Do
Refreshingly, the music on this indie release features NO guitars. Songs are instead driven mainly by pianos instead, with a vocalist who sounds eerily similar to Juliana Hatfield, who I just covered in this very post.
Unfortunately, the album isn't really all that interesting beyond that, and I don't have much to say about it. Kind of a lame one to end the month of March on, but what can you do.6/10
Just one amendment: I'm gonna go ahead and drop that Tea Party album from an 8/10 to a 7/10. It's teetering on the edge of both numbers, but right now, I simply can't justify putting it on the same level as other records that I've also given an 8/10. It would be easier if the lyrics weren't so fucking bland, but they are.
So, here's what March '95 is looking like for me in terms of best albums:
Radiohead - The Bends
Faith No More - King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime
2Pac - Me Against the World
Laughing Hyenas - Hard Times
The The - Hanky Panky
Coming up next to rep April:
Guided by Voices
Strapping Young Lad
Frank Zappa had his 63rd album, but it was also his first posthumous album, and I don't know if I want to count those.