Issue 2004-070

Reviews in this issue:

Manning – A Matter Of Life And Death
(The Journal Of Abel Mann)
Manning – A Matter Of Life And Death
<br> (The Journal Of Abel Mann)
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:ProgRock Records
Just For Kicks
Catalogue #:PRR138
Year of Release:2004
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Dream (7:00), Nobody’s Fool (5:11), Omens (5:26), The River Of Time (6:36), Silent Man (4:13), Falling Down? Rising Up! (7:56), Life’s Disguises (3:25), Out Of My Life (8:49), Midnight Sail (5:18)

For his sixth CD, Guy Manning finds a new home on ProgRock Records, and Cyclops’ loss is their gain as Manning’s winning blend of assured storytelling Singer-Songwriter material, blended with a healthy portion of prog rock dynamics and instrumental textures finds a new level of depth and maturity on this, his most consistent and enjoyable disc so far.

All five of his previous CD’s have been reviewed by DPRP, with no less than three of them earning a recommended tag. I was surprised to see that Cascade didn’t quite make the grade, as this was the first one that made me sit up and take notice. Granted, it was a very varied, you might say patchy, affair, but its best moments are hard to beat for accessible melodic Neo-prog.

A Matter Of Life And Death goes a long way to address the shortcomings of Cascade, being entirely more consistent, and largely more prog oriented, although much of the material is mid to slow tempo and favours the reflective side of things, as befits the conceptual nature of the work. It’s a thoughtfully constructed tale of Life, Death and Rebirth and follows the progress of Abel Mann, a character first introduced on Manning’s debut CD.

To realise his ambitious project, Manning has retained the solid band of his last few releases, namely: Laura Fowles – sax, Gareth Harwood – guitars, and Rick Ashton – bass. I have seen them live and believe me, their passion and enthusiasm really spills off the stage in an infectious manner, and the songs are given a renewed sense of vigour and purpose.. I would love to see them tackle this new material live.

On this CD they are assisted by: John Tipping – drums, Ian Fairbairn – fiddle, Neil Harris – piano, Tim Moon – cello and Manning’s fellow Tangent / PO90 compatriot Andy Tillison on keyboards on the first and last tracks.

The CD gets off to a rousing start with the delightful The Dream, which is perhaps my favourite Manning composition so far. It has a brief, delicate intro before taking off with an infectious chugging rhythm, powered by acoustic guitars and featuring a wicked guitar solo and splashes of synths that somehow remind me of 80’s Eloy. When the sax enters we are in classic VDGG territory – Laura Fowles is on excellent form. Guy gives a strong vocal performance in his usual idiosyncratic style. His occasional tendency to over-sibilance is less marked on this disc. Whilst he may not be the best vocalist you have heard, his personal delivery of the heartfelt lyrics adds a welcome dose of character and passion.

Nobody’s Fool is a tender, delicately orchestrated lament for a wasted life. Manning’s lyrics throughout this CD are very satisfying- thoughtful, wistful and, dare I say it, profound. I was often reminded of Peter Hammill’s wordy and intellectual approach to lyrics, though of course Guy’s voice is nothing like Peters.  Omens is a mid paced rocker, merging incisive electric guitars, powerful organs and strummed acoustic guitars, with a Mellotron-ish backing (it might be a Mellotron, but I am not entirely convinced) and some great lyrics bursting with references to various superstitions.

The River of Time is another strong song, with a compelling vocal form Guy, boosted with some female backing vocals and a good piano solo. There are some lovely, subtle instrumental touches to this one; it’s a fine example of the current strength of Guy’s material.  Silent Man adds a folkish twist with mandolin and fiddle, and Guy’s vocals are at their most Ian Anderson-ish too, lending a Tull vibe to the song. Nice one!

Falling Down? Rising Up! As it’s title suggests is a song of two halves, combining a heartfelt lament in the first half, via a jazzy bridge, with a joyous celebratory song of hope in the second half, which reminds me of the up-tempo world music influenced material purveyed on Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe’s self titled release. The In The Midst Of Life Refrain is catchy to say the least, and there’s some great sax and infectious rhythms too. This is a really successful song, and one of the albums best tracks.

Life’s Disguises is a simple acoustic ballad, but no less enjoyable for that, with a definite Hammill-ian lyrical sensibility at work. This too is one of my favourite moments.

Out Of My Life begins with superb sax from Laura Fowles – she really captures some of the passion of David Jackson from VDGG on this track. There’s quite an orchestral feel to the arrangement and some delicate mandolin to be found amongst the sturdy organ and synth leads. This is a track where all of Manning’s strengths are openly on show. It’s warm and melodic, with plenty of instrumental colour and crafty arrangements, wringing every ounce of interest from a not-especially complex structure, to make an accessible prog rock song, which should have wide appeal.

The CD’s closer is the most upbeat track on the disc, with a sing along feel. The lyrics are appealing and there’s some nice sax of course, but its simplistic Rock 'n' Roll structure, whilst fun, lacks the depth of the other tracks. It is saved somewhat by a nice synth solo from Andy Tillison, but it fails in my opinion to provide the grand climax this otherwise excellent concept work deserves.

Nevertheless, this is Manning’s strongest effort to date, with an excellent sense of pacing and structure, and I have no hesitation in once again awarding a DPRP recommendation. It’s richly deserved and I hope that Manning’s boosted profile following his presence in the Tangent project results in many new listeners checking out his solo stuff. Whilst operating in a more commercial, low key, less bombastic prog area, there’s a lot of high quality song craft and musicianship to be enjoyed on any of his solo stuff and this one makes a great place to start exploring. Enjoy!

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

Dave Sissons

Paul Roland - Pavane
Paul Roland - Pavane
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Gaslight
Catalogue #:GASCD804
Year of Release:2004
Info:Paul Roland
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Prelude - Mr Nyman's Garden (1:41), Dark Carnival (4:52), Musette (3:33), Dice With The Devil (4:29), Lucifer's Servant (3:07), Pavane (3:22), Phantoms (4:18), Easter 1916 (5:13), Hymn (4:51), Voodoo Doll (5:08), Reprise - Mr Nyman's Music Room (1:43)

Paul Roland is more widely known throughout Europe, particularly Germany, Italy and, most unusually, Greece, than in the UK. In fact, in his home country he is more likely to be recognised for his literary achievements. With a musical pedigree that stretches back nearly quarter of a century and includes 14 albums and numerous singles, Roland has carved out his own niche of, what he terms, "baroque pop with a dash of psych folk". Frustrations with the music industry and a desire to concentrate on writing forced Roland into musical retirement after the 1997 album Gargoyles, however, an invitation in the autumn of 2002 to play at a festival set in a gothic castle in Berlin was too an enticing an offer to refuse. The experience seems to have reawakened Roland's muse resulting in a return to the studio and the latest offering, Pavane.

For those familiar with Roland's oeuvre, the new album offers a return to the style of the Happy Families and A Cabinet of Curiosities mini albums. Although there are some electric lead guitar parts, for the main the tracks are predominantly acoustic with the guitars backed by a variety of 'old' instruments such as harpsichord, lute, hurdy gurdy, recorders, violin and mandolin. The overall effect is quintessentially English, reawakening the Victorian and Edwardian spirit and telling tales in the finest tradition of authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Essentially, Roland is a story teller and the latest offering includes tales of an unrepentant dying gambler (Dice With The Devil), an Irish rebellion (Easter 1916), an arrogant lover who turns to murder (Pavane) all rounded off with a slice of voodoo mysticism (Voodoo Doll).

Throughout the arrangements are well considered and the layered instrumentation holds hidden depths. The characteristic string and woodwind effectively recall bygone eras yet the music maintains a contemporary air. For the first time, Roland has included a couple of brief instrumental numbers (the prelude and reprise that top and tail the album) that, as the titles suggest, are a pastiche of the work of Michael Nyman. Apparently Nyman had previously offered to write a piece for a Roland album but, lacking confidence in his own output, Roland didn't take him up on the offer and so these pieces are his suggestion of what might have been. The addition of female backing vocals (courtesy of Joran Elane) is also unique (although I may be wrong!) to this album, and very effective it is too in pieces such as Lucifer's Servant and Pavane.

Pavane is a most welcome return by a wholly original artist, there simply is no one else producing this kind of music and, as such, it embodies the spirit of true progressive music if not the traditionally accepted musical styling. I have long been a fan of the sometime eerie, often whimsical and the occasionally macabre tales offered by Mr Roland - an original voice in a world where uniformity often pervades. Good to have you back Paul!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Mark Hughes

Pravda - The Echoing Sounds
Pravda - The Echoing Sounds
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Sonus West
Catalogue #:2465-UR235
Year of Release:2003
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Prelude/Expatriate's Lament (8:59), The Program (1:58), The Echoing Sounds Of Life (5:20), Can You Hear Me? (4:54), Saving Your Soul (5:27), Followers (5:15), Revolution (3:35), Omnipotent Struggle (4:50), Peacemind 4:11), For I Am (4:00), The Echoing Sounds Of Life [reprise] (3:07), I Believe? (3:59), Shelterless Nights (5:24), As One (5:39)

Pravda are a quartet of musicians from the Northwest Pacific area of the United States. The group have a conventional line-up of drums (Dave Thomas), bass (Tom Svanoe), keyboards (K.C. Thomsen) and guitar (Bob Smith) with lead vocals handled by guest singer Steve Brown, although all of the band chip in with vocals or backing vocals at some point in the album.

The Echoing Sounds is their debut album and takes as it's central concept a tale of the futility of war. However, in a departure from the usual 'big picture' generalisation of 'war is a bad idea', Pravda have adopted a more individualistic approach focusing primarily on three main characters, a young girl orphaned by the war whose effect on an injured soldier and a priest force them to contemplate and re-evaluate their own lives and ideals. A fictional tale based on events in Kosovo, the film Schindler's List and personal reflections, this more novel approach is a change from a lot of anti-war songs.

The story is not presented as a linear chronology, but takes the listener back into the histories of the characters which provides the opportunity to vary the musical tempo, with tracks such as I Believe?, The Echoing Sounds Of Life [reprise] and Peacemind being more reflective instrumental pieces (although the latter track does break out mid song into a soaring electric guitar solo). As would be expected, the tracks depicting the fighting are somewhat heavier. Saving Your Soul and Revolution at points verge on crossing over into metal territory while Omnipotent Struggle is a more 'traditional' progressive number featuring both guitar and synth breaks. Considerable thought has been put into the arrangements, with some nice effects, such as the pipe organ at the beginning of The Echoing Sounds Of Life (the standout track on the album for me), the clock chimes echoed by the drum pattern and keyboard riff in For I Am and the introductory Prelude with radio broadcasts setting the scene against a gathering storm and overlaid synths.

Final track As One features a very in-your-face guitar solo (sounds like the faders were turned right up on that one during the mix!) and some harmony vocals, although I feel that the vocals are rather understated and, in fact, are the biggest disappointment of the album. That is not to say that Steve Brown is not a good singer, he is (as the testaments to his vocal prowess with his main band, Border Crossing prove) it is just that they seem to lack a certain amount of warmth in places.

The final result is an interesting and varied album with some nice flourishes. However, I personally found that it lacked the killer touch and that the running time of over an hour was a trifle too long. Still it is a promising debut and the follow-up (currently being written with all four band members having more involvement in the writing as opposed to the majority of The Echoing Sounds being written by Thomsen and Thomas) could be one to watch out for.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Mark Hughes

Vast - Nude
Vast - Nude
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:InsideOut
Catalogue #:SPV 085-40562 CD
Year of Release:2004
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Turquoise (3:19), Thrown Away (4:00), Don’t Take Your Love Away (4:56), Be With Me (3:53), Lost (4:00), Winter In My Heart (3:36), I Need To Say Goodbye (3:22), Japanese Fantasy (3:00), Ecstacy (3:34), Candle (3:34), I Can’t Say No (To You) (4:19), Desert Garden (3:42)

Vast – or more specifically, Californian musician Jon Crosby – burst on to the rock scene with the outstanding debut album Visual Audio Sensory Theater in 1999. Boasting a sound which, at the most basic level, could be described as a mix of Joshua Tree era U2 and the more commercial output of Nine Inch Nails, this really only scratches the surface of an album that features huge waves of orchestral sound, a big slab of gothic ambience, plentiful nods to prog rock, synth pop and indie, and to top it all (and what has become a Vast trademark), eerily beautiful chanting of a Gregorian choir. Despite all these disparate influences, Crosby managed to fashion an album that was both accessible and established his own unique sound. The album received plenty of plaudits from the critics, and certainly gained Vast a sizeable cult following, although it didn’t do too much commercially. The follow-up, 2000’s Music For People, attempted to rectify this, with a slicker production sound, and more concise, commercial songs. Unfortunately it didn’t have the desired effect – no real commercial headway was made, and additionally Vast lost a few fans who saw the album as a ‘sell-out’. Crosby promptly lost his major label contract and appeared to retreat completely from view from the next four years, at least as far as the casual observer was concerned.

Actually, this wasn’t quite the case. Although he did practically disappear for six months, spent in isolation in the New Mexico desert, by 2003 Crosby was back utilising the medium that all bands dropped from major labels seem to favour in the first instance – the internet. Various songs that would make up Nude were made available to download for a reasonable price, prior to the album eventually being released on a small American label at the start of this year. Although it was easy enough for Europeans to get a cheapish import copy (as I did), it hardly got much promotion here, so I was pleased (if somewhat surprised) to see InsideOut pick the album up for a proper European release.

Musically, Nude can probably be seen as something of a mixture of the previous two albums. The album is front-loaded (as you might expect) with the more straightforward, accessible tracks – Turquoise is a powerful electro-rock number with a strong chorus, whilst Thrown Away and Be With Me are quintessential Vast rockers, mid-tempo songs with memorable riffs and melodies and that all-important backing choir. Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me, meanwhile, is one of the highlights of the album, a stirring, grandiose ballad complete with excellently utilised orchestral backing and a typically passionate vocal performance from Crosby.

Elsewhere, Crosby stretches out a little and tries out a variety of musical styles. Lost is a subdued and dark piece that certainly deserves the description '‘gothic'’, and is probably one of the tracks most reminiscent of the band’s debut. Both Ecstacy and I Can’t Say No (To You) flirt with Massive Attack-style bass lines, bringing an element of trip-hop into the Vast sound. Closing number Desert Garden, meanwhile, is just Crosby and his guitar, over a background of radio static – obviously going for a ‘lo-fi’ almost alt-country-type sound.

The album isn’t perfect – a couple of the tracks seem a little too simple and get repetitive after a while; the recording has a somewhat rough and ready feel, which doesn’t always suit the grandiose arrangements, and Crosby hasn’t quite managed to capture the magic that graced that first album. Generally though this is a fine and very welcome comeback by Crosby and Vast. Its already won over (in some cases, won back) the majority of the fan base, and with Inside Out pushing the album to a potentially new audience, the future should be bright for Vast. Certainly recommended for fans of the likes of the aforementioned U2, and also A Perfect Circle, Radiohead, Muse and bands of that ilk.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Tom De Val

Worlds Collide - Portal
Worlds Collide - Portal
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Inner Man
Catalogue #:WCJPE001
Year of Release:1998
Total Time:57:59
Info: Worlds Collide
Samples: Click here

Tracklist: Eschaton (1:35), Ransom’s Theme (2:42), The Portal (2:34), Advent-ageous (6:19), To Dream Again (5:00), When Worlds Collide (6:27), Taking In the View (4:14), Vital Spark (3:34), Spacious Design (8:32), The Aggressor (3:15), Perelandra (2:37), Deep and Wide (5:10), Eschaton [reprise] (5:58)

Portal is one of several solo, almost-solo, or group recordings either already made or planned by a man named John Paul Eargle. He gives a different name to each of his projects, it seems, to emphasize the differences among their sounds and intentions. On his website, he lists a number of other musicians, two of whom are Mark Isham and Patrick O’Hearn, and says “If you like [these], then you’ll like Worlds Collide.” While I don’t usually approve of such statements – after all, the only way a musician can really make such a guarantee is by imitating rather too precisely the originals! – in this case, I think Eargle is correct. At least, I’m a fan of Mark Isham’s and Patrick O’Hearn’s music, and I like Portal very much indeed.

I should begin by saying that, while I have few reservations about this album for what it attempts, it’s not really progressive. In his notes in the CD booklet, though, Eargle helpfully directs us to a couple of pieces that are a little different from the ambient, New-Age, and movie-soundtrack pieces that constitute most of this album. About one – the sort-of title track, in fact, When Worlds Collide – he says “My roots in progressive rock appear vividly on this composition. The primary influence was the music of David Arkenstone with a touch of Yes.” I’m not familiar with David Arkenstone, but I think I can hear the “touch of Yes”: the synthesized bass in places has the tone of Chris Squire’s real bass, and the keyboards (again, only in places) remind me a bit of something you might hear on Tormato. But, again, this isn’t what I’d call progressive rock; it’s peppy New-Age music.

Now, about Vital Spark, Eargle says “This energetic 7/4 piece rocks and then breathes. Twice.” This is the sole piece on the album that really qualifies as progressive. It’s also one of the two that employ real drums, and Eargle’s electric guitar work, Hackett-like in tone, makes a nice break from the mostly synthesized instruments on the rest of the songs. It might be a bit of a stretch to say that this song “rocks,” but I guess it does so in comparison to the other compositions on the CD, most of which are fairly laid back.

My favourite songs on this CD are those that are most like soundtrack music, the kind of soundtrack music you might hear in a science-fiction movie – specifically, a space opera. Ransom’s Theme, a lovely, sweeping work “named for the central character in C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy,” Eargle notes, is, as he also points out, “a nod in the direction of film composers like Jerry Goldsmith.” It sure is, calling to mind the sort of music that often washes over you as you sit in a darkened theatre watching huge spaceships majestically drifting through space. Again, The Aggressor – “An orchestral piece inspired by several sci-fi shows” – is good stuff, its synthesized tympani and strings suggesting the wide-open spaces of – well, of space.

And it’s no surprise that so much of the album sounds like soundtrack music. The back of the CD cover says that Portal is “actually a demo designed to showcase John’s compositions to both film producers and record company A&R execs.” It adds “But casual music consumers should take note. . . .” Well, I sure don’t like that “music consumers,” but, leaving aside the unfortunate choice of words, I agree that the disc is worthy of note even for listeners who don’t themselves command movie or recording empires. As I said at the outset, I like this disc a lot; it’s very good New Age/soundtrack music. Perhaps because of the songs’ variety, they’re not simply background music, either, but music well worth paying attention to. Eargle has a fine ear for melody, and he’s also a good arranger, knowing how much he needs to do to keep each tune interesting but also knowing when to let the music “breathe,” to employ his own term. I happily recommend this disc to fans of good New Age music, but if you’re looking for something genuinely progressive, you might want to think twice.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Gerald Wandio

Electrocution 250 -
Electric Cartoon Music from Hell
Electrocution 250 - Electric Cartoon Music from Hell
Country of Origin:Sweden/USA
Record Label:Liquid Note Records
Catalogue #:LNR0002
Year of Release:2003
Info:Electrocution 250

Tracklist: Fletcher the Mouse (5:01), Funky Lizard (4:22), Gee-Wiz – Guitar Solo (1:19), Brainscraper (3:43), Dr Fluffels (7:15), Exploding Head – Drum Solo (2:09), Ridiculosous (3:07), Nincompoop Scuttle (4:38), Looney Tune – Piano Solo (1:50), Mr Scruffen Mcfluff (4:23)

Initially, I was overjoyed to request then receive for review Electrocution 250’s Electric Cartoon Music from Hell. I figured it was my ‘ball of wax,’ exactly, and that the band members must be my soul-mates, since I adore cartoons like no other television entertainment, I prefer jazz to nearly all forms of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music, and (if Christian theology is accurate), I’ll inevitably have Hell as my eternal home. “So,” I assumed, “how can I miss with this one?” Here’s how.

This CD is so clearly a product of the post-modernist, deconstructionist mindset that I wondered if Jacques Derrida was going to be thanked in the credits. To be sure, the members of Electrocution 250 (Todd Duane on guitar and bass, Lale Larson on keyboards and piano, and Peter Wildoer on drums) are probably not students of twentieth-century linguistics and hermeneutic philosophy, and yet the CD is, in the most ardent post-modern fashion, a mildly tolerable amalgamation of musical styles and far-ranging techniques, unrooted and noncommittal. I kept wondering throughout the disk: Is this simply psychological dissociation amplified? Do the band members know what they are and what they want to be? Do they crave identity, or is the chameleon shift of the music precisely the band’s identity? The music itself lacks coherence and internal integrity, and though that is the post-modern joke there is no center and any form is applicable in any situation still, in the world of music, noise is noise and the absence of cadence, composition, and (above all else) continuity are hardly virtues.

The CD begins with the cutely titled Fletcher the Mouse, opening with a nursery rhyme keyboard introduction subsequently blown apart by a murderous, thrash guitar salvo. Fletcher ... continues with alternating passages of “cartoony” music and heavy metal shredding and already we see the weakness of the recording: the cartoon motif doesn’t work, in the main. The cartoony snippets are too deliberate and contrived; the juxtaposition of the two contrasting genres is unsuccessful because they don’t echo or mirror each other there’s no internal reference to anchor the ear’s attention, and so it’s all just a concatenation of noises, which is not song. Wildoer’s drumming on this track and throughout is a large part of the problem: it’s just manic pounding for the most part. I kept hoping for a magical, nuanced blending, where the cartoony strands would interweave, and thereby define, the rest of the song. Instead, the song becomes the sonic equivalent of a Jackson Pollack painting: a random toss of colour onto the canvas. It is my pet peeve and perhaps I’m overreacting, but the musical citation of the “Smoke on the Water” riff (at 3:13) is infantile: yeah, we know you can play it; yeah, we know every fucking guitar-hero-wannabe kid in the universe starts with it; yeah, we know that rock is dead; yeah, we know that Fletcher the Mouse is a great transcendence of Blackmore’s classic chord sequence, etc., but ultimately, it’s horseshit. It’s not subtle enough to amuse, and not witty enough to inspire. (And finally, I’m left wondering, “Where was the mouse?”)

Now, that is not say that the members of Electrocution 250 can’t play; far from it, in fact. I was singularly impressed with both Mr. Duane’s and Mr. Larson’s execution and instrumental command (although I felt from start-to-finish, with minimal exceptions, that Mr. Wildoer was the wrong drummer for the project). I consider Brainscraper to be a fine example of the band’s potential and virtuosity is evident on the track. At the outset, when again the thrash intrudes, you’ve pretty much heard what the band can do in that vein. And yet they steer into a Holdsworth-type guitar or keyboard tone (I wasn’t always sure which was which) that reminds me a bit of the U.K. debut. This is an adventurous track with a solid implementation of rhythm. The heavy drums work well here because they’re fuelling the engine, not burning it out. The alternation of solos is fitting and there’s an appealing break at 1:40, a reprieve that again is very reminiscent of Eddie Jobson’s U.K. keyboard craft. The central, driving motif of Brainscraper is excellent, though and this is to the point I didn’t hear a single instance of cartoonish playing in the track. Maybe it is only the attempt to mold the pieces on the idea of satanic cartoon jazz that harms the overall offering?

There are tracks within which the playing is blistering (e.g., Ridiculosous, which contained easily my favourite musical segment of the CD: the carnivalesque guitar slide at the end of the musical phrases. An exquisite touch: appropriate and germane.) There are tracks where Duane’s playing echoes both Steve Howe and Holdsworth (Funky Lizard) and where I found him to be the most imaginative and innovative player in the trio, especially when he avoided breakneck power-chording. Wildoer’s flash and fury is mostly annoying, although he does shine on Funky Lizard where he uses a bounding beat to highlight a cartoony passage. Larson’s playing is solid on the disk, and he utilizes a nice palette of effects and sound variation. I would’ve liked to hear more of his organ work as on Nincompoop Scuttle, which was refreshing and a much needed deviation. All three band members have a solo section, but none of it merits praise. Gee-Wiz – Guitar Solo is sheer musical satire, or it’s proud demonstration, or it’s both. It might be a laugh up the sleeve; it might be straight showmanship. Boring, regardless. Exploding Head – Drum Solo offers some interesting percussive tapping, and a couple of true cartoony (maybe clowny) sound effects, but it too is thoroughly boring. Maybe that’s the point: Is it merely a commentary on the pointlessness of drum solos? But if so, why bother? It’s not especially impressive; it’s not especially trite. It’s just nothing, really, including the screaming. Looney Tune – Piano Solo is straight out of Vaudeville: it’s the most cartoony playing on the whole album and it made me wonder if the whole cartoon concept was Larson’s notion in the first place? Again, as with the other solos, it’s nothing special although it is technically very adept.

There’s more but it’s wearying. In sum, Electrocution 250’s Electric Cartoon Music from Hell isn’t tremendously clever and it may be hell-bent but it’s not very hellish: I was looking for malice and grimness but heard only intellectual giggling. The band members are proficient to the utmost and the disk is littered with countless fine, stray ideas that never turn into anything other than lame asides, which is a shame. I guess finally all I can say is that I was disappointed, that the effort never fulfilled the promise of its title, and that I was expecting something better conceived and better realized. My final impression was that I enjoyed the song titles, and the rodents in tighty whities on the CD insert, far more than the music, and that’s perhaps not great news.

Ah, subjectivity! As Soren Kierkegaard, or rather Johannes Climacus teaches us, subjectivity is existence, is being, is humanity, and is our mortal cross to bear. We are all subjects subjectivizing life, and in no greater measure than when we assess, judge, and opine. We are all aesthetes and we rarely agree. In the final impression, I disliked Electrocution 250’s offering. And yet, I may be the wrong person to review this disk. I dislike the Frank Zappa-Primus-Phish brand of music that makes hash of pop music history and then dishes it out as a novel, genius, gourmet creation, with a wry socratic smile and “Check please!” I was certainly impressed by the virtuosity and technical acumen of the band members, no question about that, but still I was never delighted by the tunes. While the “electric” was certainly to the fore and the “cartoon” made an early appearance but dwindled at times, only to disappear behind the curtain just as the overture halted, there was far too little real hellishness belly-fire and angst? to suit this reviewing devil. Still, this is but one subjective opinion. The CD may appeal to some or it may not. I don’t say it’s unlistenable or poorly done: quite the contrary. And yet, I found it a poor listen.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10

John J Shannon