CD reviews: Ke$ha, Green Day, Buddy Miller And Jim Lauderdale
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Has it really been three years since the girl with the dollar sign in her name had an unlikely hit with “TiK ToK,” an ode to the late night party life?
Indeed, since that song inexplicably raced up the charts, Ke$ha has released a follow-up, written an autobiography, and now turns in her third studio album, “Warrior.”
I wish I could say that “Warrior” was anything more than a carbon copy of what listeners got on the first two albums, but the truth is that, aside from there being more explicit lyrics this time out, there’s nothing new.
Granted, Ke$ha does a good job recycling her party girl blend of pop and hip-hop with a liberal dose of Auto-Tune. On tracks such as “Warrior” and “Thinking of You” it sounds like she’s having a grand time.
The repetitive nature of the songs, however, quickly grow old, especially when one realizes that it is not only the album tracks but the albums themselves that sound the same.
You’d be hard pressed to differentiate “Warrior” from the remix album that revisited her first two albums.
Ke$ha often talks about her musical influences when she’s interviewed, and she throws out some pretty interesting and eclectic choices.
Perhaps if she decides one day to move away from the tired party girl persona that first made her famous, Ke$ha will be able to get a bit more respect in the music world.
Key Tracks: “Warrior,” “Thinking of You,” “Only Want To Dance With You”
Green Day Tre!/Reprise
After writing a couple of punk rock operas a la The Who and even seeing one become a hit Broadway musical, it didn’t seem there was much more that the Bay Area punk-pop band Green Day could do to top themselves.
That probably explains why this fall the band released a trio of albums.
Much like when Kiss did a similar experiment in the ’70s, Green Day’s albums have a novelty to them, complete with corresponding titles of “Uno!,” “Dos!” and “Tre!”
Unlike the KISS albums, these three albums are not solo efforts by each band member, nor were they released all on the same day like the Kiss ones.
Dropped about a month apart from each other, the final album, “Tre!,” just hit stores.
While each of the albums has featured a surprisingly solid lineup of songs, it appears that Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool have saved the best for last.
This is by no means a punk rock record, but for all intents and purposes, Green Day is no longer really a punk rock band.
The music on “Tre!” ranges from ballads such as “Brutal Love” and “Drama Queen” to catchy pop-rock gems such as “X-Kid” and “Walk Away.”
The best track is undoubtedly “8th Avenue Serenade,” with its ridiculously catchy guitar riff.
Armstrong seems to have an unending supply of catchy pop hooks, and the unexpected quality of the three themed albums only drives that point home.
While “Tre!” is definitely the best of the three, one owes it to themselves to check out the first two as well to see how consistent Green Day is this late in its career.
Key Tracks: “Brutal Love,” “8th Avenue Serenade,” “X-Kid”
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale Buddy and Jim/New West
Both Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale have done more for the Americana genre than perhaps any other artists out there.
Had the two men been writing and performing songs back in the 1950s, when honky tonk country music was king, they would have been stars.
Both men do OK by themselves, especially Miller, who recently toured with Robert Plant as part of the former Led Zeppelin singer’s Band of Joy.
Now, Miller and Lauderdale have joined forces for an album that shows off the strengths of each.
“Buddy and Jim” is a combination of original compositions and covers, but the album is held together by the quality of the chosen songs.
One of the songs penned by the duo, “That’s Not Even Why I Love You,” is as fine a song in the high lonely sound tradition as has ever been written.
“The Train That Carried My Gal From Town” features a “boom-chicka-boom” tempo reminiscent of the late Johnny Cash, while “Vampire Girl” is as good excuse as any to employ the reverb pedal for some lovely retro guitar sounds.
There is no rhyme or reason to the song selections here. I’m guessing that Lauderdale and Miller spent a lot of time while preparing for this album listening to old music and comparing notes.
It also sounds like they had a blast recording the music once they got into the studio.
For fans of Roots and Americana music, this organic collaboration between two giants of the genre is required listening.
Key Tracks: “The Train That Carried My Gal From Town,” “That’s Not Even Why I Love You,” “Forever and a Day”
By Devin Grant