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Dark, apocalyptic masterpiece that's richly atmospheric, June 11, 2004,
This review is from: Strange Days (Audio CD)
STRANGE DAYS, like the best music of the major bands of 1960s, encapsulates the disillusionment of the youth and a need for a radical reordering of society. In many ways, STRANGE DAYS is The Doors' best album. Dark, melodic, and richly poetic, nowhere else do they manage to create such a compelling portrait of the blossoming counterculture. Gone is the more poppy elements of their debut. Instead, The Doors fill STRANGE DAYS with songs about lost girls, isolation ("People Are Strange"), radically shifting cultural norms (title cut), and psychedelic epic poetry about wanting the world and wanting it right now ("When the Music's Over)". "Love Me Two Times," a song about a solider going away to Viet Nam and wanting to be with his lover, expresses the frustration that many felt at that senseless war. "Moonlight Drive," the song Jim sung to Manzarek when he wanted to start a band, is a love song, but one that turns musical convention on its head. "Horse Latitudes," a wonderfully odd, very disturbing recording of Morrison reading one of his poems, further contributes to the very dark, moody atmosphere that the band successfully maintains throughout the entire album. "When the Music's Over," a brooding masterpiece, deals with ecological issues, organized religion, and wanting the world right now. This is the true centrepiece of the album, and, as the Amazon review says, a rallying cry to the budding counterculture.
The cover art is one of the best and most appropriate covers I have ever seen for an album. The cover gives you a glimpse into what you will find on the album: a freakshow, a world where people are trying to find their own way and how the generation gap grew leaps and bounds in the 1960s. The cover art tells us we a long way from the staunch, McCarthy-driven 1950s, where the world made a lot more sense to people. Albums like this would never have been released during the 1940s and 1950s. Just by looking at the cover, you could tell this was a radical departure from the musical sensibilities of the preceeding decade. This definitely isn't your parent's music.
What makes STRANGE DAYS so revelatory is how undeniably dark this is. In many ways, this very dark undercurrent makes the music on STRANGE DAYS all the more radical. Released at the height of the "All you need is love" mentality embraced by much of the counterculture, The Doors offer this visionary music. Buy wedding dark, deeply apocalyptic lyrics and very moody, depressing music to very poppy elements and consistently stunning melodies, The Doors present a very different and much more dangerous picture of society. Much of the genius of STRANGE DAYS is, while it is very poppy, it totally reinvents the subject matter of pop, creating an aural snapshot of the fear, uncertainty, and growing social and political unrest that was rapidly spreading throughout the youth in the 1960s. While The Beatles were singing it's getting better, The Doors, much like T. S. Eliot, were expressing fear and isolation and confronting the dark undercurrents of their time.
All of these elements, along with The Doors' unique sound and undeniably powerful musical talents, make STRANGE DAYS one of rock's most essential albums. Although I prefer the debut to this for sentimental reasons, The Doors never equaled this masterpiece again. They simply could not maintain the densely rich, dark atmosphere, the genius song-writing, or the fantastic psychedelia. This, along with THE DOORS, stand tall among the very best that rock has to offer.