When I first gained access to the internet, the first information I sought out was record reviews. Before that, I’d been working blind, buying albums based on radio hits. While I rarely look at it now, the All Music Guide was a useful resource, but in the long run I got much more use out of Wilson and Alroy’s Record Reviews.
The site’s nearly as old as the modern internet, founded in 1995, by David Wilson and John Alroy; while Alroy has been dormant for years, Wilson has kept the site active to this day. The pair complement each other well – both are classic rock fans, but Alroy delved more into 1980s college rock, while Wilson explores jazz, Latin, hip hop, metal, and R&B. I always gravitated closer to Alroy’s tastes, but Wilson covers ground that most other amateur review websites never touch.
The pair’s succinct, no-nonsense reviews certainly rubbed some readers the wrong way – their rating system is less generous than most other review sites (even four out of five stars is used sparingly), and it’s probably frustrating to see a favourite album dismissed with a single paragraph.
Rage Against The Machine (1992)
The debut of the phenomenally popular hardcore/nü-metal band. Vocalist Zack de la Rocha sounds like he really wanted to be Chuck D, but he’s not black, so he has to settle for yelling his political lyrics over snarling speed metal backing (“Killing In The Name”). He ends up with a bewildering mix of hip hop clichés, repetitive gun/bullet metaphors, and occasionally clever indictments of modern capitalist society and our compliance with our own brainwashing (“Silence can be violent/Sorta like a slit wrist”). Since he’s so angry about so many things, he rarely stays focused, shifting from topic to topic within each song, but there are a few exceptions: “Take The Power Back” about Eurocentric curriculums, “Bullet In The Head” about the Gulf War, “Wake Up” about assassinations of political leaders. But his delivery is mindnumbing. The musical backing is facile and loud, with servicable though derivative riffs; the best effort is “Take The Power Back,” where they turn down the distortion, add funky bass, and end up sounding like Living Colour with a hangover. Otherwise, the production, arrangement and instrumentation is nearly identical on every track. The band put out a few big-sellers over the next few years, broke up, and recently reformed. (DBW)
Because they did most of the work on their site in the era before streaming and scoured most of their albums from second hand bins, it’s sometimes frustrating to encounter significant discography gaps, like a Replacements page which skips over Let It Be and a Robyn Hitchcock page without three of his key albums (Underwater Moonlight, I Often Dream of Trains, and Fegmania!).
While Alroy’s knowledgeable on guitar rock from the 1960s through to the 1980s, he’s only really enthused about Radiohead and The Posies from the 1990s onward. On the other hand, Wilson’s stayed abreast with modern music well enough to write Janelle Monáe a deservedly positive page.
But generally I’m enough on Wilson and Alroy’s wavelength not to mind all these minor quibbles – they’re a great resource for music recommendations, and I exhausted most of the pop and rock recommendations from their favourites list a long time ago: http://www.warr.org/5stars.html. I discovered lots of favourites, like XTC, Joni Mitchell, Fairport Convention and Richard Thompson, and The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle from their site.
Have you come across this site before? Are you a fan?