From The Law Offices Of

Levin Minnemann Rudess

Lazy Bones Records, 2016

http://www.levinminnemannrudess.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/22/2016

Okay, that is a pretty clever title, and probably a joke the guys heard dozens of times upon the release of their 2013 debut. Proof that progressive rockers have a sense of humor after all.

And yes, this album rocks, an aural assault of shifting time signatures, keyboard solos, a fat rhythm section, and not one vocal in sight. The twisty, quirky songwriting is reminiscent of Frank Zappa, no more so than on opener "Back To The Machine," a jittery, impressive wallop that packs a lot into four minutes and sets the tone for the entire record.

Levin is late of King Crimson, among other things, and his playing style and personality were just as much a part of that band's sound from Discipline onward (1981-2003, really) as anything Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp offered. Suffice it to say if you appreciate the mighty Crimson, you'll be drawn to this one as well. However, this trio keeps the bracing rock but shaves off that group's willful dissonance and above-it-all nature. They know they're good, but they're having a hell of a time, and you can't help but get caught up in it.

"Riff Splat" is an impressive piece of work, a song that firmly rides a trenchant groove led by Levin's bass solo and manages to both explore and pummel. Marco Minnemann is both drummer and occasional guitar player while Jordan Rudess (of the like-mindedly technically-proficient and very loud Dream Theatre) plays keyboards. But where normal people would only find a handful of ways in which keyboard/bass/drum songs would be interesting, these guys have 17 songs that prove otherwise.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That approach, to be sure, also drags down the enjoyment of this album a tad, because an hour and 10 minutes of this stuff does get a little old; perhaps a few songs shaved off that don't further the concept, like the whistly "Witness" or the mundane "What Is The Meaning," would make this required listening instead of a fun detour. But these songs are few and far between. 

"Marseille" is a tricky little number that would be impossible to replicate without hours of study, a jazzy hard rocker with tinkling ELP-like piano. "Good Day Hearsay" is all classic rock crunch, a little more straightforward at first but veering into jumpy Zappa territory, featuring some nerdy keyboard solos and a confident ending. The song is both technically ambitious and impressive, packing a concert's worth of riffs and ideas into its short run time, but one wishes these ideas had been explored in a little more detail. Upon closer review the song pretty much falls apart simply because there's no catchy melody long enough to hook you in.

But these guys aren't going for any sort of commercial acceptance. you know what you're going to get, and they won't waste your time with ballads or something you've heard before. I respect that. Besides, there are plenty of stylistic differences across the board regardless of what flavor of rock you prefer ("Balloon," for example, is Floydian in its casual stupor but gets out after three minutes). "Magistrate" is another highlight, a needed injection between "Free Radicals" and the dull "Shiloh's Cat," while the CD closes with "The Tort," which updates Crimson's Discipline for the iPhone era with flair and may be the best song here. Or the fifth best. It's hard to tell. 

Three bonus tracks close out the disc; how you can have bonus tracks on a CD that just came out is beyond me, but they are of a piece with the rest, including an alternate version of "The Tort" that is a little more raw and punchy than the other one, with Minnemann practically starting a fight with his drums and Levin popping in with a skronky bass riff every so often.

This is an album that dares you to keep up but rewards you for doing so if this sort of music is at all your thing. It's modern punk-jazz-prog rock with bite and flair and a sense of humor, different than most anything else you'll hear this year. Intense and invigorating, it proves that 2013's debut was no fluke and that these three make a great trio. 

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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