Known Johnson

February 28, 2006

Everday Joe

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 12:14 pm

Joe Satriani’s all ready to release a new album – it feels like just a few months ago that his last one, the joyful Is There Love in Space? came out, but it was really two years ago. I remember that because I picked it up the day I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon after my gallbladder surgery. Good times.

Anyway, for the few of you who care, Joe’s previewing tracks from the modestly titled Super Colossal at his site, one track every few days or so up until the release date, March 14.

So far, so good – typical Satriani, which is a good thing. I gave up on hoping to hear anything “shocking and new” from Satriani years ago, and learned to just enjoy his lyrical playing, because that’s really all you want to hear when you listen to amazing guitarists like this. He hit such a high with Surfing with the Alien that there’s no way to top it, and for a few years there he really seemed to try – and failed. I think The Extremist really signals the beginning of a shift away from any attempts at topping himself, and that’s cemented with the earthy self-titled album that followed it. He stumbles when he tries to do anything too new – the bluesy tones of the self-titled album turned off many (it’s a favorite of mine, however,) and his flirtation with techno (Engines of Creation) is fun but ultimately too awkward to work very well.

Despite mining the same basic territory, his albums have had the tendency to take a while to really get into – not because he’s chosen something different to tackle, but because he hasn’t. The initial disappointment is just that it’s more “business as usual” from Joe. Once I came to grips with that a while back, I really found new life in his catalog – it’s just good music, plain and simple. There are probably better, faster, even more technical players out there (Steve Vai, most obviously) but there are none that I find as endlessly listenable as Satriani. And it’s because Joe’s emphasis is on writing great songs with hooks like a vocal-based song would possess. He has a rare talent among guitarist of his stature and skill – restraint. It may seem like I’m joking, but I’m not. Where most guitarists use the whole song to solo throughout, Satriani plays the verse sections like a vocalist would, then lets loose in the solo section. It’s exactly this that makes his music so refreshing.

If you haven’t heard him in a while, or have never heard him, give him a chance – if there’s any guitar-shredder out there that everyone can enjoy, it’s Joe Satriani.

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