Anthrax, Persistence of Time

I'm not sure if the title is an accidental observation on the album's length, but too much of it ends up being an unstable long-form slog that doesn't quite capture the energy of their earlier releases. The shiftier time signatures make it harder to get into instead of drawing you in, and the barer production doesn't showcase their strengths. There are inspired moments: "In My World" has a punchy punk lead-in and great galloping drums, "Intro To Reality" is superb prog metal with almost Queen-like guitars (leading into the paranoia-fueled "Belly Of The Beast" and its grimly literate grind) and closer "Discharge" finally pulls its finger out around two-minutes-thirty. Plus, of course, there's their wonderful headbanger cover of Joe Jackson's "Not The Time," a raucous improvement on the original and probably the high point of the disc. That said, though, most of the tracks just don't reward you enough for sitting through them, and the tracks that are good are mostly too short (or maybe that's why). This album doesn't know what it wants to be and sadly its identity crisis isn't interesting enough to make it worth it. (Content: violent imagery, F-bombs on "Discharge.")

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The Ink Spots' Greatest Hits

All but forgotten pioneers of Black music, Bill Kenny and his compatriots were singing R&B in the 1930s and '40s before it was even called that, enlivened by their instrumental skill and signature "talking bass" vocal bridges. Now that the semi-official 1979 compilation If I Didn't Care is all but out of print, intermittent retreads like this somewhat wanting 2012 UK Fabulous release are the easiest way for modern audiences to hear these distant trailblazers croon. Compared to most of the reissues, this album has an incomplete cross-section of their hit singles but includes enough of the hits like "If I Didn't Care," "The Gypsy" and "Java Jive" to please while also throwing in less-well-known versions, covers and B-sides. (Most notable: their version of "You Always Hurt The One You Love," which sounds nothing like Spike Jones' inspired style pastiche; he even added a Hoppy Jones mimic to do the spoken word.) The selection was no doubt budgetary, and the programming sells the band a little short by making them sound more samey than they were, but it's tracks you won't get many other places and a clear stylistic evolution is obvious from the 18 tracks as a whole. What this band needs most is a remaster: the poor quality of their early recordings can be forgiven because of the technology of the time, but this groundbreaking initial incarnation (other, less accomplished, versions followed) deserves better than to disappear into obscurity on the back of bad audio. Unfortunately, however, by remaining the remit of budget outings and special products like this one, and with no one to carry their torch, they still won't get the respect they ought to for as long as they get packaged like this. That's why you should listen to them. (Content: no concerns.)

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Depeche Mode, Violator

A veritable oil slick of a disc, black and sleek and smooth on the surface but with iridescent flows and transitions that really grab on to you. It's a little, uh, unrefined in parts and the first couple tracks ("World in My Eyes," "Sweetest Perfection") are thematically banal, but the melodies cover its rougher moments and set up the finer ones to come, especially "Enjoy the Silence," the ominous "Policy of Truth" and "Blue Dress," admittedly a little pervy, but featuring a lovely emotive bridge to the final track. And hey, dig the Floyd "One of These Days" callback in "Clean," and "Personal Jesus" gets points for being conceptually memorable even if the erratic beat isn't exactly a religious experience. A landmark for the twilight of new wave, this album is where they most lived up to their talent. The 2006 reissue adds four bonus tracks on the DVD companion disc, though the two remixes that follow them feel more perfunctory than innovative. (Content: Adult themes in "World in My Eyes" and "Blue Dress.")

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The Killers, Pressure Machine

The barbed wire on the cover makes it plain: there's no fun to be had here. Frankly, quarantine pop as a whole has turned out to be a real collective downer at exactly the time we don't need to be any more depressed, and this album, like a vinyl Eeyore, just wallows in it. We're a long way from Hot Fuss when the headliner track is a gay teen circling suicide ("Terrible Thing"), or songs of the family black sheep ("Cody"), or domestic violence and adultery ("Desperate Things"). It's not all grim ("Sleepwalker" is reflective without being overwrought) and it's not all molasses (the crazed Cure vibe of "In the Car Outside" has a beguilingly unbalanced appeal), but it feels to me like Brandon Flowers wanted to rip the scabs off his hometown and record the bleeding and the bruises, right down to the spoken word interludes, and turned in the disc as such. As catharsis or social commentary, it's understandable. Heck, I've spent some time in the purgatories of eastern Utah myself, so I get it. But this album is too parochial, too ponderous, and dare I say it, too preachy. Records like this are where keeping it real goes wrong. (Content: F- and S-bombs in "In the Car Outside.")

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Ohio Players, Gold

The best of their work for a general audience, not least of which for being one of their few album covers you can actually show in public (that is, if your mother's fairly open minded, or if she previously appeared in Playboy). Most of the big hits made it — one glaring exception to be noted — like "Love Rollercoaster," "Skin Tight" and "Fire," but there are also two decent new tracks ("Feel The Beat (Everybody Disco)" and the disordered but earnest "Only A Child Can Love") and a couple excellent album cuts, notably "Far East Mississippi," which fully captures the sweat and seamy menace after dark of the 1970s Deep South like no other song. Plus, by being a mid-career compilation, they managed to avoid including the crap the band churned out after it. The funk is fabulous and the beat is solid, but it loses a fifth star for two omissions: "O-H-I-O," from Angel immediately following, so we'll partially forgive that, but I can't abide them failing to add "Funky Worm." ("Jive Turkey," which is included, is zippy but no comparison.) After all, if they really did to Ester Cordet what rumour says they did, surely that reputation would have induced Westbound sniveling in fear to negotiate its inclusion. (Content: mild adult themes.)

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EMF, Schubert Dip

I like this more than most alternative dance in that you can, you know, dance to it. Now, do also be advised that the lyrics are throwaway, the music doesn't really go anywhere and the beats are generally indistinguishable from track to track; there were only really two songs (the twisty thumping hit "Unbelievable" and the new wave-NRG four-on-the-floor of "Children"), maybe three ("Girl of an Age"'s unattainable subject) that seriously hooked me in. That suggests an obscured talent not well demonstrated on the remainder but that doesn't mean the album's bad, just not what it could have been. Other than the ill-advised Mark David Chapman cameo on "Lies" ("that's the way destiny works") and the obnoxious live hidden track "EMF," it's something energetic you don't have to listen to very closely, and I'll never condemn an album solely for that. (Content: F-bombs in "EMF.")

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