Adrian Belew - side 2
Terrible, just terrible. I’d rather go to bed early without dinner then ever suffer through this disc again. Adrian Belew is a very well respected guitar talent. He was in King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club... and many others. You’ll need to know that going in, perhaps from a google search on his name… because this record is mostly ambient keyboards and poorly placed drum loops. I am a rock and roll purist, because I expect certain things from any and all music that I listen to: a melody, a verse, a chorus… and ideally a succinct little story being told. This record wanders aimlessly through a fictitious world of jazz rock fusion that has yet to exist. Granted, perhaps he is a visionary re-defining rock as we speak. Maybe he is way ahead of our time, and will only be understood in the future. My thoughts? Not so much.
Side Two is the second part of an ambitious trilogy undertaken by Belew. It began last year with ‘Side one’, which featured such impressive side musicians as Danny Carey from Tool and Les Claypool of… well I think y’all know who Les Claypool is. On this release, though, he handles everything himself... including the album art. The art I can forgive.
Now, for some reason I don’t hold jazz to these standards and I still love jazz. This is not jazz though. No sir, it sounds like outtakes of John Lennon’s fabled mellotron thing that played pre-recorded looped tapes for sound effects. It’s all over Sgt Peppers. Now imagine a retarded cat with a broken leg spending 40 minutes on the keyboard trying to get comfortable… that is the sound we have achieved here.
I have often heard of ‘triggers’. Triggers (as I understand them, anyhow) are some kind of electronic links in a guitar with a synthesizer computer. Yes, the dreaded midi. I can’t stand it, and that Jerry Garcia used it still breaks my heart. Alex Lifeson legendarily used electronics like these to create the masterpiece Rush album 'Signals'. This isn't that, though. Guess what, I want a guitar to sound like a guitar. If I want keyboards, I’ll buy keyboard music.
Oh, and these drums. They are all programmed, and programmed on that little tiny Casio thing you had when you were a kid that had only like 3 settings. I think it is admirable that Belew chose to create this from start to finish... but he could have used some talented percussion and production help. I am thinking in this case Daniel Lanois would assist well. He revolutionized a tired and somewhat formulaic Willie Nelson. On bass I would recommend someone equally talented and unorthodox - Jack Cassidy of Hot Tuna (and formerly Jefferson Airplane).
Oh, and even the song titles are pretentious. ‘Dead dog on asphalt’? Sounds like a Jim Morrison poem. It’s not a story about him encountering such a sad site… not nearly as I can tell. No sir, it is a weird voice hovering over some guitar scale progressions mumbling only ‘dead dog on asphalt’. So when I went to pick up the latest solo guitar album from Frank Zappa’s guitarist… I knew strange was the order of the day. Certainly Frank wasn’t out breeding or recruiting automatons. This isn’t what I came to dinner for though, frankly.
I’d like to report, if you make it all the way to ‘dead dog on asphalt’ you will initially hear some really nice guitar work. However, if you have gotten this far… then you are stoned again aren’t you? Actually, this might be a really great album if I were super high. Those days are way past though.
Tell you what: If you are the person who watches Wizard of Oz and sees how it is synched mystically with ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, then this is your disc. Here is the trick. Get high, put this disc on. Then, watch whatever you were watching on TV… but with the sound off. Then, notice how many similarities there are… and call your friends.