REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/19/2005
Let's start this review off by stating the facts: Adrian Belew has not released a solo album since 1997. Les Claypool and Danny Carey from Tool appear on this one, which is half an hour long. There is a song about elephants.
If you're still reading, then you're probably interested in rock music that's different from the ordinary, and Belew is one of the best practitioners of this. Belew, of course, is the only person who could temper Robert Fripp and resurrect King Crimson -- twice -- for a whole new legion of fans. Fans of that band will see much of latter-day Crimson in Side One.
But Crimson's tour with Tool also left a mark on Belew, which is evident here. The epic, morose feel of Lateralus is mixed with The Power To Believe, leading the listener on a brief prog-rock trip that ends way too quickly. Of course, Belew also released Side Two and Side Three in 2005, so later reviews may tell the entire story.
This third of the story, though, shows Belew in fine form, employing his usual tricks of dissonant freaky guitar playing, repetitive lyrics that are hard to decipher and odd time signatures (thanks to Carey, Tool's drummer, who is also a fan of Belew). The opening punch of "Ampersand" and "Writing On The Wall" is a sonic assault that ends far too quickly, and while this stuff would never fit on modern rock radio (it's too original), it's quite good. So is "Matchless Man," which recalls Crimson's Discipline era in mood but throws in an Eastern influence and bongo drums.
"Madness" is a sonic wall of noise that Fripp would like but that goes on way too long, while "Elephants" threatens to take off but stays stuck in the same pattern, with some annoying guitar noise and voiceovers to further ruin things. "Pause" also starts great and then just ends after only a minute for no reason.
Yet the backward cymbals and frantic guitar riffing of "Walk Around The World" redeem these, recalling Discipline as well, as does "Beat Box Guitar," which is pretty much Belew soloing over a beat box and some interesting percussion for five minutes. It has a suitably vinyl scratching noise in the background as well, at least until the track loses the box and becomes a rock song for the final two minutes.
It's good to know what Belew's been up to these last few years, in between his Crimson and Bears work. For all his missteps, Belew is still one of rock's most unique voices.