Album Recommendation: Humbug

In the late 2000s I found myself throwing on the odd punk or industrial song on YouTube with the purpose of seeing what the recommended videos would be. For me, this was a good way to discover new bands I had not yet heard and would potentially like. Though I can’t remember the exact song that I was originally listening to, I can recall that one such recommended video was a fan made video for a song called “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys.

They were new to me at the time, and while they didn’t sound exactly like the punk bands I was used to, I really like their fast pace and overall sound. I quickly added their two albums, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare to my collection and found myself listening to them more often than my other favourites of that time. In 2009, their much anticipated third album hit the shelves. Like many other fans, I was ecstatic after a long wait and picked it up immediately. It sounded almost nothing like their first two albums and many fans were left disappointed and I was no different. So I’m recommending it because why not right? Over time though Humbug by Arctic Monkeys ended up being one of my favourite albums of all time.

Their first two albums were punk, or pop punk, fast paced, energetic and even angry. They took Humbug into a very radical direction. It was slowed down, it was dark, and it was very gloomy as the album title suggests. Unlike many punk bands, I loved that their lyrics were a bit more artistic and contained deeper or abstract meanings. They’re plays on words were also above the rest my typical genres. This fact remained in their third album and worked very well with the general mood of the whole record. One that I can often recall was a line from “Dangerous Animals”: when the acrobat fell off the beam, she broke everyone’s heart.

Songs like “Crying Lightning” and “Dangerous Animals” still carried on with an angrier tone and faster pace of their previous tracks, but the tone was still darker, so for me I was still intrigued once I grew accustomed to the new sound. Some songs such as “Cornerstone” had a more uplifting tone despite the lyrics being sad (or creepy depending on your interpretation).

While critics and fans have mixed feelings about Humbug, I find it my personal favourite from the group nowadays. They took a risk in trying something very different that would jeopardize their reputation but pushed through to create an amazing album. While they did move their sound back closer to their roots after the album, the style influenced their subsequent albums and (to me at least) it seems that they settled for a new sound somewhere between their original punk sound and Humbug. I highly recommend giving it a listen, especially if you like songs like The Doors’ “House of the Rising Sun”. Just had an afterthought that some songs on Humbug remind me of that one.

Album Recommendation: Americana

As cringe worthy as it may be nowadays, I still have fond memories of listening to “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”, and needless to say the music video made all twelve year old immature kids like me laugh. These days I can’t even listen to the song, that “uh huh, uh huh” part drives me up the wall. However, the song itself holds a special place in my heart as it did get me begging my parents to buy the album Americana which I listened to endlessly and why I’m making the record my next recommendation.

Many Offspring fans, mostly those who were fans from the band’s earlier albums, agree that the group has moved towards a more pop punk sound after this album. There are disagreements as to when this shift began though. Some say Americana was their last non pop album, some it was Ixnay on the Hombre, some say it was Smash. But most agree Conspiracy of One almost entirely sounded pop. My personal opinion is that America was the first step towards a pop sound, but it was not entirely all there.The singles released seemed to be the ones tailored towards mainstream radio play, such as “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) and “Why Don’t you get a Job?”. And while they certainly caught my ear and exposed me to the group, these songs did not end up being my favourites on the album.

I can’t even rank my favourite tracks on this album. But I think “Have You Ever”, “Staring at the Sun”, “Walla Walla”, “The End of the Line”, “No Brakes, “Americana”, and “Pay the Man” all tie at number one. That’s more than half the album though. None of them resemble the pop sounding tracks on this album, and that’s a big reason why I love them. They’re definitely more pure punk than the other half of the album, which has always been one of my favourite genres. Over twenty-one years later and I still have these songs in my regular rotation of music so it goes without saying this album is a big staple of my music collection.

While some fans say the Offspring sold out after this album, I think this album was their first sell out. The album did exceptionally well for them, and proved that their pop like sounds hit higher on their charts than their punk tracks. In hitting that success with the singles released on Americana, they followed the formula with their next album and the next ultimately becoming less punk and more pop rock. I’m still going to recommend it, even though it started a shift in the Offspring away from my preference, I still love half of this album.Both for those hard hitting tracks, and for the late nights listening to the album from start to finish when I could still bear listening to “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”.

Album Recommendation: The Looks

Buried under a mound of metal/rock/punk/industrial albums in my music collection, there are a few oddball albums that don’t seem to fit the general theme of said collection. But when it comes to music, I can appreciate something from all genres so it should not be a surprise there are outliers scattered about. I can’t believe it’s already been nearly 13 years since my ears first heard MSTRKRFT’s The Looks but I have nothing but fond memories of listening to it ever since.

As you may have noticed, I like to listen to ‘harder’ or ‘heavier’ music, that’s just my taste. Even as I write this, I’ve got KMFDM playing in the background. But if you’re familiar with industrial, you know that it has many of its roots from electronic music. If you take out the guitar on some of my favourite tracks, you get a sound that’s heavily electronic inspired. So, an album like The Looks isn’t a very far stretch for me.

The Looks is a fairly ‘light’ electronic album when compared to other electronica inspired albums I’ve got by groups like Lords of Acid or VNV Nation. It crosses over into pop territory at times which may be a turnoff for many listeners but not really for me. Songs like Easy Love and Work on You sound like pop songs altogether but are two of my favourites. Tracks such as Paris and Neon Knights tend to be a bit more ‘heavy’ electronic ones which changes the pace or sound of the album as you listen through it all.

My personal favourite though is Street Justice. For me the chorus riff always reminds me of bar hopping in Budapest in the early hours of the morning with the streets still packed with bar patrons. It seems to remind me of a very busy, active social scene in a big city and you’re there partying along too. I’m not entirely sure why it reminds me of that it does. A friend who heard the track back in school told me it’s the kind of riff that makes him want to pop some acid and dance all night at a warehouse rave. And to an extent I agree with his visualization of the song.

Regardless of the track, I do find electronic music that is not a 90s repetitive bland uhn-tss uhn-tss techno to be enjoyable so I would recommend this album to anyone despite what their preferred genres are. Prior to listening MSTRKRFT, I enjoyed some tunes from Death From Above 1979, particularly their remixes which are much more electronic than the songs they release themselves. And surprise surprise, Jesse Keeler, who is one half of Death From Above 1979, is one half of MSTRKRFT. It was one of those “I’m shocked but I really shouldn’t be” moments.

Of course when you find a new artist or group that you like, you try to explore the rest of their work. I tried listening to MSTRKRFT’s more recent albums, but I just couldn’t get into them that much. I find they deviated from The Looks by going a little more hip-hop, but with a heavier sound. And for me it just didn’t sound that great. But The Looks is an album I find myself coming back to from time to time. Give it a listen sometime!

Album Recommendation: The Vandals Play Really Bad Original Country Tunes


Somewhere in my mid-teens, one of my best friends and I went fishing at a small lake nearby. It was a bust, but on the way home we listened to a local radio station that played offbeat music that you wouldn’t hear on the usual generic pop or rock stations. A song called “People That Are Going to Hell” by The Vandals began to play and we liked it even though we never heard of The Vandals before. It was a somewhat catchy punk song with amusing lyrics so it naturally got stuck in my head for a while. It wasn’t long before that I had their entire discography and found myself listening to them more and more. Picking my favourite album by them is difficult, as with any other of my favourite bands, but I did end up finding one I could listen to front start to finish. There’s a bit of an oddness to the album I chose though. It’s a country album. Besides this album, The Vandals don’t really play country music as they’re a punk band. I don’t really like country music, though I admit there is the odd tune I enjoy. So oddly enough, “The Vandals Play Really Bad Original Country Tunes” ended up being my favourite album of theirs. The album was originally released as “Slippery When Ill” though I enjoy the latter as it has a couple of additional songs that were not on the original.

Many punk bands out there are politically motivated but The Vandals don’t really seem to care for such things. Many of their albums and songs are tongue-in-cheek, immature, and sarcastic. So it should be no surprise that they decided to combine punk and country music for an entire album (they’ve also got an entire Christmas album too, go figure). Somehow it worked wonderfully even though I thought punk and twang would never mix. The tempo for most songs seems slightly slower than their typical punk songs but the pace is kept at a higher rate than your typical country song. There is also a great mix of twang in one song, while others favour a distorted guitar with a country rhythm. This is coupled great with some immature lyrics such as the kind that appear on songs like “Clowns Are Experts (At Making Us Laugh)” and “Play That Country Tuba, Cowboy.”

Without a doubt, my absolutely favourite song on the album is called “Elvis Decanter”. I would even go as far as to say it is amongst my favourite songs of all time. It just has a great rhythm and to me is the perfect mix of country and punk. Whether it was on purpose or just a great accident, the song’s lyrics are sad and seem to follow a similar formula that many original country songs utilize. A man who loses his girl due to alcoholism which was enabled by his lover. Slightly clichéd, but the lyrics end up being a little depressing. The only thing it seems to lack is mention of a horse, truck, and maybe a sunset.

It looks like this my shortest recommendation I’ve written. It’s also probably the most poorly worded one too. But I’m too lazy to go back and rewrite most of it. So in summation, if I had to pick my most beloved of all albums from The Vandals, this would be it. It’s fairly unique and very different from all their other stuff. If you like country music but not punk, still give this a try. If you like punk music but not country, give it a try too. If you like neither, why the hell did you read this?

Album Recommendation: Welt


Despite KMFDM being my favourite group of all time, I can’t say that I exclusively listen to industrial music, or really even all that much outside of KMFDM. While I do have some tracks and albums from other acts such as PIG, Combichrist, Ministry, or Nine Inch Nails, I find that my collection of music isn’t too heavily composed of the genre. Surprisingly enough, it also has very little Skinny Puppy which is basically an industrial legend. Perhaps it’s because most of the Skinny Puppy tracks I listened to were from a long time ago and just didn’t gel with my tastes or I didn’t give them a fair chance based on my first impression.

Later in the early 2000s I was introduced to a track called “Cracker” by ohGr. I found it stuck in my head for quite some time. To me it was electronic industrial music (rather than industrial metal or rock) with a mix of fast glitch pop, granted I didn’t know what glitch pop was at the time. Stuck in my head for days, I had to get the whole album called Welt and give it a spin. Now over 15 years later, I find myself listening to it again and again in my office and I think it’s safe to say this is one of my favourite of all time and deserves to be one of my recommendations. Here’s the kicker, Welt was primarily made by a fellow named Kevin Ogilvie, better known as Nivek Ogre who was a founding member of (you guessed it) Skinny Puppy and has served as the front man for the group since 1982.

While I’m a fan of almost every song on this album, two in particular stand out to my ears. As mentioned, “Cracker” was one of the first I heard on the album even before I had the album. I find this one to be a bit more upbeat than some of the others and perhaps even a little catchy, not unlike a pop song. As mentioned earlier, I instantly loved the glitch sounds used and think it complimented the light bass riff. Not to mention in the music video there’s a faux Eminem doing a little rap, which the younger me found amusing. The second track that caught my attention even before I got my hands on the album, is one called “Pore”. But this track caught my attention for different reasons as it’s a very different song. It almost seems like a light and simple drum loop with various sound effects put together to form riffs that would stand in place of a vocal choruses and lyrics. Throw in some fast talking lyrics (not rapping though) and a great warped bass riff and you got something that seems to be tuned into the essence that is experimental industrial music. My description doesn’t do it justice, but this one seems to be fairly difficult to describe, so just YouTube it and check it out.

Those are my two highlights, but the rest of the album is great too. Most of it will sound closer to “Cracker” though rather than “Pore” so if you find yourself not being a fan of the latter, this album is still worth giving a shot. I’d highly recommend “Suhleap”, “Solow”, “Lusid” and “Water” as those are my next picks after the first two. When I first heard the album “Welt”, it was a fairly different change from the usual industrial music I was used to that leaned towards rock. As a good friend of mine always put it “When I listen to industrial I usually imagine a factory with giant gears and hammers with lots of clanking” (I’m paraphrasing that but you get the idea). Something like the older KMFDM albums is what industrial is to me as well. But “Welt” is much more electronic, doesn’t use guitar, and even feels like it relies on riffs and choruses that seem to be inspire by pop music. If any of that sounds like your cup of tea I highly recommend giving this a listen.

As a side note, “Welt” came out back in 2001 and since then ohGr has released three other albums. I gave the next album, “SunnyPsyOp” a listen though I never found it as good as their first. And since then I haven’t listened to their newer albums either, though I hear good things. Maybe it’s time I get the newer ones and also a bunch of Skippy Puppy albums and give them a fair chance.

Album Recommendation: Nihil


Back in the day (I want to say late 90s, but it may have been early 2000s though), later at night there was a music show called Loud that aired on Much Music. It primarily focused on metal, hard rock, and punk which none of them at the time was really my cup of tea, though I’m not sure what my cup of tea was before then. One night they aired a song called A Drug against War by the industrial group KMFDM which are considered to be among the founders of industrial music. The music video alone was enough to catch my attention and the head banging ultra heavy beatmade me drum on my pillow like a madman as I sat up in bed captivated by the sights and sounds. Prior to this I can’t recall ever hearing industrial, let alone something so energetic and heavy. Little did I know watching TV that night opened my eyes to a world of music that would change my musical tastes for the rest of my life.

Last night while I was out walking my dog, I’m fairly certain about 30-40% or so of the songs my iPod randomly picked were KMFDM songs, so it’s fair to say I’d still consider them to be my favourite band of all time. Thus, as only my second album recommendation I could think of no other band to choose from. The problem is picking only one album. They’ve been around since the mid 80s so there’s a lot of material to go through but fortunately I can narrow it down to a few mid 90s albums. That’s not to say their earlier or newer material is not good, it’s just a step down from their best era I think. But even then, I’m stuck with five great albums to choose from. So I approached it in a methodical sense and chose my all-time three favourite tracks, Megalomaniac, Juke Joint Jezebel, and Light. This cut out only two albums though, since all three of these are from different albums. So of those three, I looked at all the other tracks, as well as reflected on which songs in the past I had been most obsessed with in my younger years. Winning by only a hair above the rest, I’ve decided to pick Nihil as my favourite album of KMFDM.

If you follow KMFDM’s timeline, you can see how their sound progressed from primarily electronic, to a mix of metal and electronics, to almost all metal at times. Nihil is roughly from when they were at a perfect mix of the metal and electronic, at least in my opinion. Tracks like Flesh and Search and Destroy highlight the speedy metal on this album, while songs like Juke Joint Jezebel, Beast, and Revolution through more electronic and synth sounds into the mix. As it’s no secret, KMFDM tend to be a politically outspoken group so you’ll get a bit of their opinions on tracks like Terror and Disobedience.

For me there is a great mix of electronic and metal as I mentioned earlier, but this album (much like the other KMFDM albums from the 90s and earlier) has a unique sound to it thanks to some experimental mixing. Even the heavy guitar and steel guitar can almost sound like scratchy sound produced on a synthesizer. In terms of vocals, I’ve always been a fan of the male vocals KMFDM has had over the years and this album has four all together (though I do miss Tim Skold’s raspy voice on this one). But for me the highlight in the vocal department falls to the two ladies singing on Juke Joint Jezebel (Jennifer Ginsberg) and Beast (DoronaAlberti). Their voices singing the catchy choruses really make these two tracks shine for me. As a complete package, Nihil highlights my favourite age of KMFDM.

It’s been almost twenty years since that first night I heard A Drug against War on the TV and I dove into the world of KMFDM. And from it, I further explored other industrial acts and expanded my musical tastes, but without a doubt I can say they’re still my all-time favourite group. My best friends and I even had the opportunity to see them live twice when they rolled through Canada. I even got to see solo shows from EnEsch and PIG a couple of years back which were great, but what made them unforgettable was when they played some 90s KMFDM songs. So if you’re even curious about industrial music, I highly recommend starting with Nihil. Go through their older tunes to get a sense of the more electronic side of KMFM, and move onto the later years to get a sense of some heavy industrial metal. Either way you’ll most likely find album to love with KMFDM.

Bat out of Hell: The Musical


When I make a recommendation article, I will usually lean towards easily accessible media so that should someone take my recommendation (Yeah I know that’s not likely) they can easily acquire it. Since you can’t really easily go to a musical if you’re reading this from the other side of the world, I won’t call this a recommendation. But I still really wanted to say something about it so we’ll classify this one as miscellaneous.

When the announcement for Bat out of Hell: The Musical was made I was ecstatic. While the album was before my time, I found myself picking it up and loving it in my late teens and early twenties. It was very different from my usual tastes but I found it to be a very fun listen. So when they announced it was only playing in England I was a little bummed out. Then sure enough, they announced it’ll be playing in Toronto. I immediately texted my best friend (who lives in Toronto) and said let’s go! Myself, my friend, and his longtime girlfriend all like the album and dished out the extra cash to be in the premium seats nearly in front of the stage.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been to many musicals in my life so I don’t have many other ones to compare it to. But, I can safely it was among the best things I’ve ever seen. Better than any other musical, concert, movie, comedy show or even the circus as a kid. I may even say it was phenomenal, at least for me anyways. I know my friends thought the same too, and they’ve been to a few more musicals than myself.

From start to finish it was a great ride. The storyline was really the only thing a bit lacking, but it is a musical so a simple story is to be expected. I’m assuming making an overly complex story doesn’t quite work for musicals. The stage props, effects, lighting, and transitions were pretty solid, and I enjoyed how they got creative with the set at times. Costumes and choreography were fairly good as well, no complaints there. Though it’s not meant to be a comedy, I found myself having a good laugh when they did sparing utilize some humorous dialogue as well as some good prop comedy. But what really made the show for me were the actual musical performances.

All the performers, especially the six main cast members, looked like they put their heart and soul into the show. None of them were lacking in talent department either, when they sung they hit their notes and bellowed out of their lungs with passion for the songs. And let’s not forget that the Bat out of Hell album itself is almost written like a musical or rock opera so the music was a natural fit for the show. The performers combined with the style of music gave an unforgettable experience. Even show goers who didn’t like the original album would have smiles on their faces.

I can see why it’s been getting such great reviews. And while I’m not a critic, I did want to make a little blurb about it (though not too detailed so I can avoid spoiling it for anyone) and commend the cast and crew for an unforgettable evening. If you find yourself in Toronto for the next few weeks, or in London next year when it’s there, I highly recommend you don’t miss this show.

Album Recommendation: With a Lifetime to Pay


When I was younger, I remember seeing footage of concerts such as Metallica (or any other popular band from the 80s or earlier) and noticed that they still sell out huge shows and that much of the crowd were older folks. This was in the early 2000s and my teenage mind couldn’t quite comprehend why such bands were still huge and why these fans haven’t moved onto newer music. Now being a bit older I realize that I’m no different. I too would much rather listen to some of my older punk albums than the new music being made these days. I think it’s natural for most people to care less and less about new music the older they get. To a kid only burdened by homework, a part time job and possibly a girlfriend and video games, life isn’t too complicated or hard. Going to shows and keeping up with the latest news on the music scene was a priority to many during those youthful years. As you get older, responsibilities, obligations, long term goals, and other interests tend to push music on the back burner. So when they do decided to listen to something, most people would prefer a nostalgic tune from their younger years. Don’t get me wrong though, there are definitely some new tunes that catch my ear and they find their way into my music collection. They just tend to be few and far in between nowadays. So that being said, most of my musical recommendations will most likely be from the late 90s or early 2000s and if you happen to be in your 30s and like punk, industrial, or hard rock, you might just enjoy them too.

Looking through my music collection, punk rock is definitely more prominent than other genres. I tended to lean towards punk for its energy. Fast drumming coupled with screeching guitar just caught my ear more than anything. Throw in some satirical commentary and immature puns and I was sold. Bands like NOFX, The Vandals, Descendents, Tiger Army, Propaghandi, and Strung Out were such a staple of my music collection growing up. Despite so many albums that I’ve repeatedly listened to back in those days, there were virtually none that I could listen to every track and call it a perfect album (unless you include NOFX’s “The Decline”, but that’s cheating as it’s the only track on there and it’s a great song). The closest album that truly can listen to from start to finish I would have to say is Zero Down’s “With a Lifetime to Pay”.

There are many albums in my collection that I simply don’t listen to anymore. Sometimes, I only put my favourite songs from a record onto my iPod, and sometimes just a few songs from a band all together. Hell, there are some bands I don’t even have on there anymore and haven’t had an urge to listen to in years. That’s not the case with Zero Down. Every few years I find myself pulling this one out when I’m walking my dog, biking, or at the gym. And when I do throw their songs back on my iPod, the whole album goes on, nothing is missed.

As I pointed out early, I tend to like the immaturity many punk bands incorporate into their lyrics, however Zero Down doesn’t do this. Some songs focus on social commentary such as The Way It Is, Bite the Hand That Feeds, Empty Promised Land, and A Million More. While other tracks such as No Apologies, Going Nowhere, It Ain’t Over Yet, and Self Medication shift their focus on self-reflection. But given the quality of their sound I don’t mind a lack of humor, more mature lyrics work better in this case. But to me, the two strengths of this album are purely instrumental. I find they deviate from your usual punk band by utilizing melodic tunes with their guitar and bass as well as Jim Cherry’s choruses (not to mention he has a great voice that perfectly suits the more serious topics he sings about). Second, the drumming is not in typical fashion either. While the drumming is fast, there are definitely sections in this album where they get creative with it. If you put all these together; the melodies, the rhythmic drums, the lyrics and Cherry’s voice you get a unique and great punk rock album. This is an album even people who are not fans of punk rock can enjoy and it doesn’t sound like a punk band that’s purposely tailored for radio.

You would think my first music recommendation would be my favourite album from my favourite band, but this isn’t my favourite album of all time, nor is Zero Down my favourite band. In fact I don’t know if I can even pick a favourite, but if I did this would be a heavy contender. I chose this one because of the fact that I find myself pulling this one out every few years and listening from start to finish for a few weeks. There are not many albums that I know of where I can do either of those, let alone both. Sadly singer Jim Cherry died early in life at age 30 and Zero Down disbanded due to this. “With a Lifetime to Pay” was their only album made and alone it gave me countless hours of bliss. A must listen for any music fan.