Apr 24, 2012
Album Review: Mercyland - Hymns for the Rest of Us
Mar 8, 2012
Album Review: Lucero - Women and Work
Mar 7, 2012
Album Review: The Deadfields - Dance in the Sun
Feb 6, 2012
Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth
Nov 21, 2011
Yelawolf - Radioactive
Yelawolf's major label debut, Radioactive, is out today. FTM's a big fan of Yela's rural southern angle on hip-hop. His previous releases were full of classic rock and country influence with lyrics about the darker side of southern living. Think Drive-by Truckers for the rap set.
When he signed with Eminem's Shady Records in 2010, I was pretty excited for him. Of course I was a little apprehensive as well, concerned that his signature sound might get swallowed up by the corporate machine. I erred on the side of anxiousness though, knowing Yelawolf's talent and story (he's a half-white, half-Native American former professional skateboarder from the deep south) will make for a groundswell of support and bring true talent back to mainstream rap.
I'd be lying if I said Radioactive lived up to my expectations. I was naively hoping for something groundbreaking - a Nevermind of rap maybe - bringing his small town gutter sound to the mainstream. Unfortunately, it sounds more like the mainstream was brought to him.
Radioactive is still a very strong album with a few great and mostly good tunes. All the rap skills are there. The lyrics are generally excellent. The beats are solid and the production isn't overdone ….for the most part.
When the album sticks to Yelawolf's strengths it's at its best. "Grownin' up in the Gutter" is an angry rocked up rant which argues that hard times are everywhere, not just the ghetto. "Let's Roll," mines Yela's classic rock influences with an unabashedly catchy arena anthem, with a strong chorus from Kid Rock.
Where the record drops off is when Yela gets away from his meat and potatoes. The tracks that echo B.O.B. are definitely skippers. "Good Girl" is one "for the ladies," but I'm not sure even they will enjoy the annoying chorus and mixed messages. "Made in the USA" is a fairly well-written protest track completely torpedoed by a Debbie Boone meets Lee Greenwood hook. It's so sappy, it destroys whatever message Yelawolf wanted to impart.
Drop a little of this pop filler (which in fact isn't filler - I'm sure "Good Girl" will be released as a single to move a few units) and replace it with a couple more classic rock influenced bangers and Radioactive would be a little closer to that classic I wanted. Still, Yela's way above most of the rest of rap right now. He actually writes songs, not just barking out brags around a chorus. Let's hope his next album gives more of his unique southern perspective.
Nov 15, 2011
Hellbound Glory - Damaged Goods
Oct 25, 2011
2 Steps Back - Lovers and Fighters
2 Steps Back is a terrible name for a band that isn't a group of similarly dressed pretty boys with bad hairstyles dancing to pop songs. The members of 2 Steps Back have the bad hairstyles, but none of the other boy band details apply.
2SB is a red dirt band who plays a blend of country and rock that isn't far removed from the likes of Reckless Kelly and Cross Canadian Ragweed. What sets them apart from that crew is their youthful energy. There's also a larger portion of their sound that draws from alternative rock, giving them a more driving aesthetic.
Given the baby-faced appearance of the group, one might expect them to play a bunch of songs about love and partying. One would be partially correct in that assumption, but on Lovers and Fighters, 2 Steps Back goes a little deeper than that. Their song-crafting is mature, from the well-developed lyrics to the strong melodic component of their writing.
There's a worldly coolness to the sound of songs like the mid-tempo leaving tune "205" that melts back over multiple listens to reveal a resigned sadness. In fact, there's a whole lot of leaving on Lovers and Fighters. "Can't Change You" is another song of broken romance that wonders "why do we keep wishing on the same old stars" as the singer leaves the unshakeable girl he desires behind.
"When I Was King" looks back on the carefree years of adolescence with a wistful affection that belies the fact that these guys can't be far removed from those easier times. It's a stripped down moment that ends the album on a much lower key note than the bulk of the album. It also reveals that somewhere in between the "lovers and fighters" lies the true man, one who's a little of both and is still trying to figure out his place in the early years of being on his own in the world.
Lovers and Fighters is highly recommended to fans of Turnpike Troubadours, Reckless Kelly and others of that ilk (in fact, it's much better than Reckless Kelly's recent release). It's a catchy album that surely gets the live crowds pumped but also provides a soundtrack for quieter moments alone, reflecting on the comforts of youth and looking towards the unsure travels ahead.
Check out the band's YouTube Channel here.
You can listen to samples or purchase the album here.
It's also available on iTunes.