WILTOTWTWT: Fear Factory, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

So I just realised that if you turn ‘What I Listened To On The Train To Work Today’ into an acronym, it looks like an onomatopoeic interpretation of the sound a finch makes.

Okay, this morning seems to have been one of polar opposites for me. I started my walk to the train station cranking Fear Factory’s ‘Obsolete’ album. When this one came out, I got to interview Raymond from the band (for Curio, the student magazine for the University of Canberra – I was the News & Reviews editor). Allow me to slip into self-indulgent journo mode for a second…

When Fear Factory toured Australia to promote this album in 1999, I was lucky enough to get a backstage pass and a photo pass to shoot the first 3 songs. The band opened with ‘Shock,’ the first track off ‘Obsolete.’ After getting a bunch of shots of the band (including Dino with an Ibanez UV777BK Universe 7-string with a single EMG active humbucker), I turned around to get some pictures of the mad wall of mosh happening behind me. Suddenly I felt ‘a presence’ and I realised singer Burton C Bell was right behind me, getting the crowd to go extra psycho for my photos. So I turn around and we sing the chorus to ‘Shock’ together into his mic. Awesome. Awesome.

Anyway, ‘Obsolete’ is my favourite Fear Factory album. The production is sharp, hi-fi and aggressive, with monstrously tight grooves and direct songwriting. Dino’s guitar tone is clear even when he plays complex chords on tracks like ‘Descent,’ and Burton strikes the perfect balance between his screamy voice and his singing voice. Fear Factory made other great albums before and after ‘Obsolete,’ but this is the one for me.

Anyway, after getting to the train station and stopping at the kiosk for a coffee this morning, I switched over to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s ‘Raising Sand,’ which won every single one of the Grammys yesterday, with the exception of the Best Rock Instrumental award which went to Zappa Plays Zappa.

This is a cool, low-key album which reminds me in parts of Page and Plant’s 1998 ‘Walking Into Clarksdale’ album (not only because both albums include the song ‘Please Read The Letter). There’s lots of cool tremolo-drenched guitar playing by T Bone Burnett, and the whole atmosphere is very laid back and real. I would consider this one a bathtub album, or maybe a quiet Sunday afternoon album, sprawled out on the sofa with a sunbeam slowly crossing your bare feet as you read Oliver Sacks’ ’Musicophilia’ or something. Man I wish it was the weekend.

By the way, anyone else notice that T Bone Burnett looks a lot like John Hodgeman (Daily Show correspondent and the PC in those “I’m PC” “And I’m a Mac” commercials)?