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Rewind: Madonna, American Life

[Madonna - American Life]

Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.

Whew, there’s a lot of vitriol in my review of American Life. Oddly enough, my opinion has turned around somewhat on the album.

What I thought was “thin and unconvincing” now strikes me as angular and off-beat. It’s certainly one of Madonna’s weirder sounding albums, and it should get some credit for stretching her sonic palette.

So what accounted for the strong reaction in 2003?

Pretty much: Ray of Light.

The 1998 album was in constant rotation in my car CD player, and its singles could not be avoided at gay bars. Madonna’s voice had strengthened after getting a workout on Evita, and the songs were her most emotionally resonant since Like a Prayer.

Any follow up to such a watershed work would have a high bar to surpass.

I tried to give Music the benefit of the doubt, but recent plays of that album has revealed it does not hold up well. American Life turns out to have improved on the ideas of Music. The rapping still sucks, but the acoustic guitar flourishes sound fresh even now.

I still consider it one of Madonna’s weaker albums, but it no longer sits at the bottom of the heap.

And I’ve actually welcomed a physical copy back into my collection. I had owned a promo copy I snagged from my job at Waterloo Records, but once I discovered I disliked the album, I gave it back. The current copy was acquired at the Lifelong Thrift Shop for $1.

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Rewind: Sonic Youth, Murray Street

[Sonic Youth - Murray Street]

Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.

Back when I first reviewed Murray Street, I was familiar with only three Sonic Youth albums, two of which I owned. I eventually let the album go because it had been played to death during my shifts at Waterloo Records.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep producing reviews for this site, and like any imposition, I eventually started making filler. A few tell-tale signs indicate how I struggled to get through that review.

First, I defer to the opinions of other publications. When I do that, I know I don’t have a strong opinion of my own. Second, I openly confess to the limitations of my expertise on the band. Sometimes it works when I’m moved enough to write about a style of music with which I’m not familiar. In this instance, it was a cop-out.

Murray Street found its way back to my collection only after I had developed an appreciation for the early-Steve Shelley era. I actually prefer Sister and EVOL over Murray Street, but I do like it enough to own it on vinyl.

I stand by my description of the album in the review — it’s tuneful and somewhat restrained, compared to the distortion assault of Daydream Nation or the grime of Dirty.

Something not mentioned was the fact I passed over the two albums preceding Murray Street. Waterloo had a policy where you could listen to anything in the store, of which I took advantage in the days before Napster. I heard enough of A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts and Flowers to know I would like neither of them.

That made Murray Street appealing by comparison.

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Rewind: Idlewild, 100 Broken Windows

[Idlewild - 100 Broken Windows]

Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.

Back in 2014, I recounted how 100 Broken Windows by Idlewild departed my music collection, then returned. Thing is, I reviewed it back in 2001! I read that entry now and wonder, “Who the hell is this kid who wrote this?”

Name-checking the guitarists of Sonic Youth and R.E.M. pretty much revealed what little I knew of music while posturing how much I knew about music. I do find this paragraph anthropologically interesting:

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, deities bless, brought punk kicking and screaming into the mainstream but in doing so locked record moguls into thinking what America needed was an entire decade of thrice-removed punk pop mixed with — cough — heavy metal.

The A.V. Club wrote a takedown on 1996, the year alternative music died. Five years on, the situation in rock music hadn’t improved. In fact, Nickelback and Limp Bizkit were in their prime when I typed that paragraph, and it led me to conclude 100 Broken Windows was awesome because nü metal suuuuuuuuucked.

The snark against Blur in the second sentence of my review is pretty dated now, although I don’t anticipate I’ll ever find any appeal in Oasis.

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