Hmm, how to describe the newly released Culture Clash by The Aristocrats. It’s Metal, it’s Prog - with hints of Jazz, Rockabilly, and Techno. In other words, the title, “Culture Clash” is a perfect handle for this roller coaster adventure in musical styles. I hear the playfulness of Zappa, the odyssey of Pink Floyd, a dash of The Police - maybe something in the vein of “Roxanne”, a touch of System Of A Down (in the form of the middle-of-the-tune directional changes), and maybe even a little Max Webster on the side, drive-wise. The songs are full bodied and investigative - no short changing the listener here. There’s nothing under four and a half minutes in length. When you get a song, you get it from start to finish; the tunes don’t end until they should. It’s a tasty “big salad” of music! And how fortunate that I have an appetite!
The musicians who've mixed this salad are: Guthro Govan on guitar, Marco Minneman on drums, and Bryan Beller on bass. I was really impressed with the depth and creativity of their work on this one. The band’s a simple configuration of three instruments, so there is a familiar feel to the handling of each tune, but they still manage to twist and re-form every song into its own identity with technology and mixing. What I love most is their ability to evoke a memory or visual image from my own life. I hear the tune, and immediately dig through the cobwebs in my brain to find the image it has sparked.
01 - Dance Of The Aristocrats is a slick, techno Jazz track, with a thunderous bottom end, scorching guitar, and aggressive drums. Sort of spacey and way out there. A powerful opener that catches your attention; um...grabs it by the throat, actually.
02 - Culture Clash is a bit moodier, so naturally I dub thee Prog. Lots of syncopation. Quite a monstrous number, all in all, each man adding his own special touches. At almost seven minutes in length, there’s a lot to explore here. The bass at about 5:45 into the song is to die for. Beller speaks through his fingers, that’s for sure. Heh, heh, I’d love to hear this one as an acoustic trio piece, just to shake it up a bit. Or shake it down, as it were.
03 - Louisville Stomp starts with an inviting, splashy drum intro, and then I immediately hear memories of Ten Years After playing “Baby Please Don’t Go” with Govan’s wildly screaming electric guitar, Beller’s pulsating bass, and Minneman’s deliciously beastly drums! Hey, fellahs? Did I hear a lick of “Shave and a Haircut” at about three minutes in?
04 - Ohhhh Noooo. Okay, this one is a show-stopper. The bass rocks this number. Thunder is an overused word when talking bass, but if your fillings rattle and you feel your brain shake loose a little, how can you call it anything else? Track 04 is Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love meets Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein, all done up in a very unique style only the Aristocrats could create. Outrageously snazzy guitar, and drums that are more than just a driving backbeat. Each musician owns his musical space and guards it jealously, yet they all come together as a well-oiled machine in perfect unison.
05 - Gaping Head Wound. Well, with a title like that, who knows what to expect, hey? Will it be a massive arena sound? Heavy metal? Actually, Gaping Head Wound is more of a Jazzy tune, with shots of aggression throughout, and a thoughtful fretless bass/guitar mix in the middle. I like that - the song surprises the listener. Rolling drums with enough variations to keep you guessing. Let’s call this one Fusion-Prog.
06 - Desert Tornado immediately gave me a visual memory of the scene in “Natural Born Killers” where Mickey Knox busts out from his prison work detail during a tornado. The song title alone was bound to take me there. It speaks of open spaces in its arrangement and stereo effects through the headphones. The song feels like a caper in progress. With the crying guitar licks, furtive bass thumps, and drums that warn of trouble approaching. The entire song is a ticking time bomb of danger. Dramatic and heart-pounding.
07 - Cocktail Umbrellas is a laid back number with mood and expression. It’s the longest song on the album, giving the listener plenty of time to enjoy the groove. I didn't want it to end. Just lay back, relax, and soak in this tasty treat.
08 - Living The Dream is a machine gun paced Heavy Metal Jazz tune with lots to keep your ears occupied. Wait. Heavy Metal Jazz? Betcha never thought you’d hear that to describe a song. Listen and see what you think. Govan’s guitar grinds out riff after riff, Beller’s bass growls angrily underneath, and Minneman chews through the air with wave upon wave of badass beats! Uh, but wait. At about four minutes in, everything slows for a fill section, and suddenly I hear that dark, ominous Floydesque mood. Get the album “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” and listen to the closing track, “Sorrow”. You’ll know what I - oh wait! The fill is over and here we go again! Woo Hoo! The fire starts up and we’re back to pure red-hot Metal! What a great ending!
09 - And Finally is the closing tune (of course). Fusion and fire melting together. Another fine, moody song to end our odyssey. A groove to take us out in style. Ahh. So nice. I actually got up and danced to this one. Highly infectious. Slow, like a Blues Ballad, with lotsa feeling and soul. I might dub this one the most expressive of all the tunes. It sounds like PEACE at the end of a long summer road trip. Resolution. Can’t think of a better send off.
Well, I've eaten the salad that is The Aristocrats’ Culture Clash , and Baby, I’m pretty full. Methinks I’ll be back for seconds. This is more than a collection of music; it’s a merging of minds and moods. This band is composed of three very creative men who are learning more and more how to complement each other, and yet retain individual identity. Each voice - bass, drums, and guitar - takes a big chunk of the experience and turns the collection into something exceptionally expressive. Aristotle said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but the parts are pretty decent in their own right. Nothing lost in the mix, and everything joined together just right. Nicely done, Boys!
I look forward to more! Much more!
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