I really like The AllMusic Guide. Its pretty comprehensive. Its usually accurate. The reviews are often informative. I find myself consulting the site frequently to get more information about something, or someone, I’ve heard for the first time.
Here is one, however, they got wrong — massively, ridiculously wrong: 2 and 1/2 stars (out of 5) for Rev9 by The Shazam from 2000.
O.K., I know. Rev9 is just an EP. It clocks in at less than twenty-eight minutes. Six of those minutes are consumed by the title track which is, shall we say, a creative “re-imagination” of perhaps the single worst song in the entire Beatles catalog (“Revolution 9”). Rev9 is far from perfect.
But before we delve into what is actually quite good about Rev9, check out some of the works of great artistic merit that also received 2 and 1/2 stars from the AllMusic Guide:
- Jessica Simpson, In This Skin: “[I]ts heart is in the mature middle of the road but its sound is still pitched too young, making this a record that satisfies neither audience.”
- Kiss, Kiss Symphony: Alive IV: “The full orchestra shows up, in Kiss makeup of course, for the whole of the second disc. It sounds more bloated than bombastic as the mix ping-pongs between crunchy guitars and disco-style string and horn flourishes.”
- Rod Stewart, It Had To Be You: The Great American Songbook: “[T]he whole project has an artificial undercurrent that’s hard to shake, especially since the song selection, the arrangements, and the performances play it so safe they’re largely undistinguished.”
“Unsatisfying,” “bloated,” “bombastic,” “artificial undercurrent,” “undistinguished” — is that what Rev9 is? AllMusic isn’t exactly fond of its experimentation: “[D]o we really want to hear experimental collages and progressive rock from one of America’s leading power pop bands?”
Well, Rev9 starts off with “On The Airwaves.” Sure, it has some weird noises and affected radio sounds, but it was nevertheless sufficiently rocking to be “The Coolest Song In The World” for a week on Little Steven’s Underground Garage:
“Wood And Silver” is also about radio, or to be more precise, an old trusted transistor from days gone by: “It ain’t worth nothin’ but it works just fine/After all this time, you’d think I would have thrown it away.” As AllMusic notes, “Wood And Silver” certainly has a trippy feel to it and is washed occasionally in mellotron. Sometimes, though, you just have to say “more mellotron.” “Wood And Silver” still flashes some pretty tasty, chiming guitar and a catchy chorus. You know, like in Power Pop.
The next track, “Okay,” sounds like something off of Big Star’s Radio City. I guess that would be some more Power Pop.
“Periscope” is a mid-tempo rocker punctuated with banjo.
“Month Of Moons” would have felt at home on one of David Bowie’s early-70s long-players.
“Take Me,” the second-to-last song, is a dreamy, simply gorgeous track with mandolins, strings, mellotron and nearly perfect vocals. It alone is worth the price of admission.
I like The Shazam’s rocking, head bopping exercises in pure Power Pop — think “New Thing Baby” from 2002’s Tomorrow The World — as much as anyone else. But Rev9, replete with “experimental collages,” beats the living daylights out of the “unsatisfying,” “bloated,” “bombastic,” “artificial” and “undistinguished” product of Jessica Simpson, Kiss and Rod Stewart. Its not a 5 star record. 4 would be good.