Known Johnson

November 7, 2007

Rock thoughts!

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 12:21 pm

Here I thought my participation in NaBloPoMo was going to slow things down here . . . it seems to have just stirred the pot. While I’ve got one long Re:Collection piece brewing about King Crimson, and it will continue to do so until I decide if it’s just way too long and needs to be broken up – because I’ve decided it’s time to devote a bunch of posts to one of my all-time favorite bands – or can be used as-is and hope that readers put up with the length, I’ve got a million other thoughts racing through my head:

Steve Vai

Aside from Passion and Warfare, I had pretty much given up on the guy long ago. It seemed like you were either a Vai guy or a Satch guy, and Satriani was my guy. But I gave a listen to Vai’s recently released Sound Theories at Borders and kind of fell in love. Something’s happened – either he’s approaching composer-level status or I’ve softened in what I view as “ridiculously over the top” guitar music, which is kind of how I viewed Vai aside from P&W. I picked up a cheap copy of Real Illusions: Reflections and while he’s still possessed with a tendency to just do too much, there’s a growing warmth in his playing that had been glimpsed in tunes like “For The Love of God.” Now I’m hearing the Passion. Some are saying that Vai is heading toward a career as a serious composer like his mentor, Frank Zappa, and I can’t say that’s certain yet, but he’s certainly on to something.


A cartoon band can’t possibly be this good – yet they are. So good that this album is almost certainly my metal album of the year, and I’ve only had it for a few days. What makes it work is because it’s serious music. The lyrics are often very funny, but the music itself is dead serious. Metalocalypse creator and vocalist/guitarist/bassist Brendan Small plays as if he really just wanted to have his own metal band, but knew he couldn’t pull it off by himself. That he snagged one of metal’s best drummers, Gene Hoglan, to back him, is a testament to how good this music is. It’s Hoglan’s jack-hammer drumming that takes this to the next level, however. Without that kind of serious, no-holds-barred fury behind him, Small’s project would simply feel like a parody. Put it this way: few acts like this warrant repeat listenings. This one demands them. That we get to snicker at lines like the opening of “Birthday Dethday” is just a bonus – and most of the time you really won’t notice the humorous subject matter at all.

“Many years ago today
Something grew inside your mother
That thing was you!”

Plastic Ono Band

Late to the game, I know. You’ll all laugh when I say that I haven’t really particularly cared for John Lennon’s solo career outside of a handful of songs. That is, until I, for whatever weird reason, cued up clips of Plastic Ono Band on Amazon. In short, it sounds like it’s just about everything I’d hoped to hear from Lennon – tender and heartbreaking and beautiful, not at all the often difficult stabs at artsiness that I often found in his later work. Forgive me if I’m generalizing – I’m simply reduced to that based on what little I’ve heard. It was just enough to turn me off, is what I’m saying, and I stayed turned off a good long time. Like I said, for whatever reason, I gave POB its first chance via 30 second clips and really regret having made that decision long ago – I was wrong, at least about some of Lennon’s catalog. Listening through various albums, I really don’t know what I was objecting to. Nothing sounds that odd save for the odd song here and there. Funny thing is that while I know he pushed boundaries on his albums, I know the songs themselves were often beautiful and powerful, and that’s why I’ve kept in mind his 4-CD Anthology box, where everything is stripped down to just the bare essence of the song. Many fans aren’t thrilled with this, but it seems like I might really enjoy it. I’ve wanted it for years, but never took the plunge. Christmas is a-comin’, however . . .


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