Celebration

Marco Minnemann

Lazy Bones Recordings, 2015

http://marcominnemann.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/31/2015

Celebration is the latest entry in a 20-plus year career of band and solo releases from progressive rock drummer/composer/guitarist/singer Marco Minnemann—a run that most recently included the erratic but intriguing 2014 solo outing EEPS.

The new disc feels in many ways like EEPS Part II, as Minnemann, whose past musical cohorts include Steven Wilson, Mike Keneally, Tony Levin and Jordan Rudess, once again offers 18 tracks of proof that he really, sincerely does not care what anyone else thinks. He just plays what he wants to play and leaves it entirely up to you whether or not to come along for the at-times bewildering ride. The end result, like many a hyperactive child, dances down that fine line between exhilarating and exasperating.

To the extent that there is a core musical theme here, it’s rhythmically complex heavy fusion, muscular math rock with more than a hint of free-form jazz in its complexities and lurching changes of rhythm and tone. But the core is frequently abandoned for detours into such a wide variety of different musical offshoots—a prog mini-epic, spoken word, ethereal chamber pop—that Celebration comes to feel at times like an almost random collection of musical ideas strung together. Cohesive, it isn’t.

“Miami” opens things up with a breakneck electric guitar riff that’s quickly joined by drums and… well, I’m not really sure. It might be a guitar synthesizer that’s been tricked out to sound like a sitar, except when it doesn’t. And then the track morphs halfway through into a pulsing, ominous horror-movie soundtrack. (No, really.)

The title track is one of a handful here featuring vocals, a tune whose primary feel is eerie hard-rock dirge, although it features a couple of pretty, expansive passages and, for some reason—or, more likely, no reason—bells. “It Always Seems” plays a similar game, another vocal number with a complex time signature and heavy riffing that suffers some sort of nervous breakdown just before it segues into the shambling 1:55 instrumental “March Of The Living Dead,” which features synth and bells, because—well, because he can.

Next “How Can I Help You?” enters the fray, a careening cacophony of instruments and melodic phrases that also features car horns and some faintly spectacular drumming. The going only gets rougher as companion piece “What Have You Done?” unfolds its schizophrenic wings, but just when the album threatens to run completely off the rails, along comes “Greatest Gift In Life,” a gentle, dreamy, rather sweet song with a very tasteful, rather Steve Howe-flavored guitar solo.

And then there’s “Print Club,” all 10:55 of it, a mini-epic with more moods than Sybil. First he’s playing a vaguely Eastern chord progression against a backdrop of herky-jerky industrial guitar. Then seven minutes in he goes full-on Jeff Beck / Jan Hammer on us, and then there’s a keyboard that sounds like a xylophone and a dreamy melodic closing section. But… why?

The second half of the album unfolds in equally challenging fashion. There are two takes—Spanish and English—of a woman delivering a spoken-word performance over gentle contemplative solo piano, jumbled up with several more tracks exploring the outer reaches of heavy fusion. It’s consistently impressive, and intermittently appealing; I just can’t quite figure out what it’s for.

The musical ADD continues with tracks like the odd, beautiful “4000,” the frenetic, hiccupping “Eclipse” and the thoroughly bipolar “Amina’s Birthday.” Closer “Better Place” is a fun vocal number where Minnemann really cuts loose on the drums, which is always a pleasure to hear.

Bottom line, Celebration is a musical adventure into uncharted territory led by a gifted, charismatic and volatile figure. These sorts of quests typically end in either euphoria or disaster. I’ll leave final judgment on that count to you, the listener; for me, while I scratched my head and wondered what the hell he was thinking more than once, I also spent the better part of an hour smiling at the pure skill and audacity Marco Minnemann puts on display here. Much like its predecessor, Celebration might be confounding, but it’s never less than entertaining.

Rating: B

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© 2015 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lazy Bones Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.