Review Explosion: BROCKHAMPTON, Iggy Pop, Olivia Jean, Post Malone, & David Bowie

(Review Explosion is a new AnalogPlanet feature covering recent releases for which we either don’t have sufficient time to fully explore, or that are not worthy of it. Curated by AnalogPlanet contributing editor Malachi Lui, Review Explosion will focus on the previous few weeks' new releases as well as archival titles and reissues.

BROCKHAMPTON - GINGER

RCA/Question Everything, Inc digital, LP, and CD (the latter two coming in a few months)

Produced by: BROCKHAMPTON (Executive producer: Kevin Abstract)
Engineered by: BROCKHAMPTON (mostly Romil Hemnani)
Mixed by: Tom Elmhirst at Electric Lady Studios (presumably on an iPad speaker)
Mastered by: Vlado Meller

Music: 8
Sound: 6

I reviewed this on my YT channel so I’ll just embed the video here. One thing I forgot to mention in the video though, was the mastering. Surprisingly enough, Vlado Meller’s mastering here isn’t that bad. All of the sound issues are baked into the mix as far as I can tell. For more information on the album and the terrible mixing, watch my video review:

Olivia Jean - Night Owl

Third Man Records TMR-631 LP, CD, and digital

Produced by: Olivia Jean
Engineered by: N/A
Mixed by: N/A
Mastered by: Bill Skibbe at Third Man Mastering
Music: 8
Sound: 7

Was the five year wait for a new Olivia Jean album worth it? Since her first solo album, 2014’s Jack White-produced Bathtub Love Killings, Jean has busied herself with touring and various other things, but now she’s back with the self-produced Night Owl. She describes the music as “bubblegum garage,” which fits it perfectly; it’s 60s garage rock with a bubblegum twist (which the album cover’s pink and blue color scheme represent well) as well as excursions into elements of country (“Brushfire”) and surf rock (“Tsunami Sue”). Lyrically, it details longing and inner and outer conflict. If I had more space, I’d go into more detail on Night Owl but overall it’s very good and definitely worth the wait.

The sound here (I haven’t heard the vinyl yet but both were mastered by Bill Skibbe at TMM [Third Man Music]) is raw in the sense that it’s a bit rough around the edges and compressed but it fits the music well. It’s not sonically outstanding but it’s not bad at all, so no complaints really (though I do think Bathtub Love Killings is the sonically better album; I don’t know who mastered that one).

(Fun fact: when I met Jack White on August 11, 2018 at the Boarding House Reach tour’s Portland show, Olivia was the opening act. Jack had spread the word about me so everybody backstage knew who I was. That was super cool. Funny thing is that Olivia thought my name was Mortakai [I don’t even know how anybody would spell that; I hope I did a good enough job so you get the idea]*. I feel like that’s what the gravedigger would name his son lol. Still super cool.)

*That would be “Mordecai” (also name of Johnny Depp film flop) -ed

Post Malone - Hollywood’s Bleeding

Republic/UMG digital & CD (LP set to follow) Produced by: Various
Engineered by: Various
Mixed by: Manny Marroquin
Mastered by: Mike Bozzi at Bernie Grundman Mastering

Music: 4
Sound: 5

It’s a Post Malone album. It’s exactly what you might have expected.

Actually, it’s less than what you expected. According to Hip-Hop By The Numbers (Twitter: @HipHopNumbers), Posty raps only 12% of the time here while singing the other 88% of the album, truly marking his transition from singer-songwriter/rapper hybrid to full-on pop artist. Hollywood’s Bleeding is a mediocre collection of autocrooned pop songs with melodies already used ad infinitum and production that sounds just like everything else in the trap-influenced pop arena right now. Unlike Posty’s previous album Beerbongs & Bentleys, Hollywood’s Bleeding doesn’t have any memorable songs of any kind. There’s a song featuring both Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott which isn’t as bad as you’d think it’d be (“Take What You Want”) and another song co-written by Kanye West (“Internet”). Both are the sonic equivalent of mass-produced wheat bread. (Side note: with Francis & The Lights’ “Take Me To The Light” and now “Internet” out, I can now say that Tyler’s “PUPPET” remains far and away Kanye’s best feature of the year.)

If that doesn’t say enough, the album is so monotonous that all I had to do to review it was listen to a few whole songs and 10 seconds each of all the others. It’s become increasingly clear that Post Malone used the rap game as a way to acquire fame and fortune so he could boost his singer-songwriter profile (he once called the rap game “easy money”). Oh, and the mastering (by the usually great Mike Bozzi) is some of the most fatiguing and compressed I’ve heard this year. I can’t fathom anyone trudging their way through all 52 minutes of Hollywood’s Bleeding and I’m not daring anyone to. It’s not awful but it’s not good to warrant listening.

Iggy Pop - Free

Loma Vista LP, CD, and digital Music: 3
Sound: 6

Wasn’t 2016’s brilliant Post Pop Depression supposed to be Iggy Pop’s last album? Yes. After that album’s tour wrapped up, he was set to retire. But as JAY-Z, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, and others have proven, never trust a musician when they say they’re going to retire. Because now, Pop is back with a new album, Free.

While Post Pop Depression featured an all-star lineup of Josh Homme, Dean Fertita, and Matt Helders, resulting in inspired songwriting and Pop’s best album in decades, Free is an extremely forgettable mess. It doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be one of Iggy’s standard rock albums or one of his vocal jazz crooner albums. For example, it begins with the short title track, where he recites “I wanna be free” several times over a horn and atmospheric synth. Free from what? Free from having your name attached to this effort-lacking work?

The “album” is a sloppily assembled collection of quarter-formed ideas that can range from tolerable to downright annoying. Iggy Pop is no stranger to making forgettable albums, but it’s hard to fathom how he’d want to come back from a late career masterpiece with this turd. Post Pop Depression should’ve been Iggy’s final album, but at least Free is unremarkable enough that I can pretend it never existed and that Iggy went out with a bang as opposed to a whisper.

David Bowie - Spying Through A Keyhole, The Clareville Grove Demos, and The Mercury Demos

Parlophone digital files, 7” box sets (Keyhole and Clareville Grove), and LP box set (Mercury Demos)

Music: 5
Sound: 4

European copyright law has had an immeasurable impact on music reissues in the last few years. The law is that if a recording isn’t released within 50 years of its recording date, the recording becomes public domain. This has led record companies to pump out deluxe 50th anniversary reissues of everything, which partially explains the Beatles 50th anniversary releases (with all those previously unreleased alternate takes) from the last few years.

EU copyright law has also led to several collections of Space Oddity-era David Bowie demos, most previously unreleased. Parlophone has tried to make these demos collections as inconvenient, wasteful (imagine how much unnecessary PVC this is using) and expensive as possible, making 7” box sets for Keyhole and Clareville Grove (the former priced at $45, the latter at $35) and a ridiculously expensive LP box set ($70 retail) for The Mercury Demos (though all the demos found their way to streaming services following the vinyl releases). Obviously, they want to block casual fans from buying these, which is a good thing because they aren’t worth anybody’s time, really.

First, how many demos of “Space Oddity” will fans want to hear? Parlophone seems to be testing that. There are demos of that one song on all of these releases, and I really don’t need to hear any more than one of them. I say this as somebody who regards Bowie as the greatest musical artist of all time. These demos (“Space Oddity” the song and otherwise) are a waste of time; and the title track aside, the finished 1969 self-titled album (better known as Space Oddity) isn’t much to write home about either. Parlophone (and EMI before it split) have been obsessed with endlessly reissuing this album (and its associated material) even when they could be giving us a super-deluxe Berlin trilogy box set (A New Career In A New Town, which didn’t have any new material, was simply a sonic disaster).

The sound on these demos isn’t great. Sure, they’re home demos made on a small mono Revox R2R machine, but I’ve heard far better sounding acoustic home demos. At the beginning of The Mercury Demos, Bowie and John “Hutch” Hutchinson (the other guitarist and vocalist on some of these recordings) admit that the tape machine doesn’t sound very good. The only good thing that’s come out of these forgettable demos is the hope that as we get into the 2020s, we’ll get 50th anniversary releases of the good unreleased stuff (I’m hoping for more material from the 1974 Sigma Sound sessions as well as the Berlin trilogy). But for now, you can skip over these releases and save a few hundred dollars.

COMMENTS
Glotz's picture

And totally helpful, honest and funny.

Insightful and helpful for us inundated with too much information!

And hey, she could've called you... Schlomo!

Nice pic Mikey! Lol... My Rebbe! Love it.

Goatboy's picture

Well presented and executed. Thanks for the heads - up on the cynical Bowie release.

StonedBeatles1's picture

Go easy on the Iggster Malachi. He wants to be free from the chains of loud guitars and 50 years of rock n' roll and just be a little mellow for a moment.
Om..

Michael Fremer's picture
What can i tell ya?
MalachiLui's picture

well he's had previous vocal jazz crooner albums so he has gotten a few breaks from rocknroll here and there...

Anton D's picture

When I first heard Iggy sing Les Feuilles Morte from Preliminaires, I would have bet you big money it was Leonard Cohen rocking the Voxativ speaker demo room at the show I was attending.

I give Iggy a lot of slack...he can do it all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnvTjdvwOhw

Those are awesome short reviews, Malachi!

Michael Fremer's picture
When I read them to edit (very minor) I laughed my butt off...it was in the Denver airport and people around me looked to see who was laughing out loud....
mtemur's picture

thanks a lot for very honest review. sometimes you buy an Lp with good reviews but when you drop the needle your hopes for good sound turns to a frustration.

analogdw's picture

I like the review explosion Malachi, great stuff! I don't see the Tool review you had mentioned though. Hopefully that's because you realized that you need to give this monumental album it's own full, stand-alone review once the vinyl is released. It's an epic, incredible album! An all-time masterpiece!

MalachiLui's picture

Standalone review coming soonish, but referring to the files and not the vinyl bc it doesn’t exist yet (and probably won’t for a while).

Happy Will's picture

Great idea - there are many, many new and reissues out there and it is easy to miss some excellent ones, even if they maybe from digital tapes.

Maybe you could set up a page for readers reviews?

My hit list this year includes the Tim Buckley 7lp Rhino set, and David Lindley's El-Rayo X by Speakers Corner, a mono reissue of Fred Neil's Bleecker & MacDougal, and Nursrat FatehAli Khan live at Womad 85.

Michael Fremer's picture
I really like that idea, though no money will exchange hands. You'll have to do it out of love....
Happy Will's picture

good to me

Bluejimbop's picture

“I’m looking through you” - The Beatles

richiep's picture

Very good idea and review's, enough helpful information to explore new music, thanks for the time and effort Malachi

ChrisM's picture

Thank's for the graveyard's review, fun to read ;)

Just a remark about :
"European copyright law has had an immeasurable impact on music reissues in the last few years. The law is that if a recording isn’t released within 50 years of its recording date, the recording becomes public domain."

Law has nothing to do with the sonic quality of the records, neither "public domain". This matter is just the ugly side of this industry, the record companies are to blame, and some of them do not wait until the music falls into the public domain to press bad records.

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