CURIOUS CORN 1997
ONE WORD: Still nice music.
At the risk of being scorned by fans of this band, specially in the Erpnotes area, the new album is nice. But not as good as some of their previous albums and body of work, compared to the moody scapes in "Erpland", and the excellent rock showcase in "Strangeitude".
But unlike the other albums, this one is more accessible to the ear, in that it displays more of the common variety of music that is found here and there, in some radio stations. But to this reviewer this accessibility lacks the pizzass that their previous albums had. Yes there are some nice moments, and some very good listening all the way through the album, but all in all, it is a real come down from the previous material.
Reasons why I think this is so, lie in two areas, which are not bad, but in my estimation prevent the music from "taking off". Most music that purports to create trips, by musicians that are on the edge, tend to be put in a place where most instruments are played in a non-conformal way, as if the different touches helped create a different mood which took us places that we had not been previously, thus adding to the excellence and beauty of the music. In other words, you would never hear the same drum beat, or sound in two songs, or the same beat keeping bass work in any two songs. In this album there are two things that pretty much hold up this "flight". The drumming is dry, and not really much to speak of, and the bass is ... well, ... just a bass instrument keeping time, not taking us too far away, with its oddities, with the exception of one cut. It's not to say that a Precision Fender does not have a great sound, but one listen to Mike Howlett in GONG, would dispel the thought that the same instrument can not be used in a thousand different ways, the least of which is to maintain a backbeat, that is NOT the driving force in the music. Basically, I wonder why a band would write a piece in the area of "tripping" and all the bass and drum parts are consistently the same beat... heck, use a machine, then and become a second rate bruhaha group for the Melody Maker or the Rolling Stone to yak about. The trip would become repetitious and redundant after a while, and hardly worth staying with after a few listens. Unlike albums like "Erpland" and "Strangeitude" that still sound extremely fresh, and not tired.
In earlier albums, it is the invisibility and the odd touches that have defined this band, which helped create their moods for our pleasure, a lot of these centered on John's ability to add something to the material, to take it away from the middle of the road sound and song routine. Unfortunately, in this new effort, it is simply a Tatadedum bass and drum sound, that holds down the band's music. That's not to say that it is bad, but one gets the feeling that a better design for these instruments would make the music more adventurous and add more depth... And it is sad, in many ways, because Seaweed displays a wonderful touch all over the place and adds to the overall mood very nicely, be it with odd sounds, or a dramatized sampled sound played backwards, of which there are many. Perhaps by the next outing, this line up will appear much better defined in their style, and their musical abilities will add to it, rather than us simply getting a feeling that "we've heard this all before".
CURIOUS CORN, displays one thing for sure. There appears a little less of Ed Wynne in the mix, and thus the driving force and vision, appears to be diluted some. This maybe a hopeful thought that hopes to add to the mix in the long run, and night turn out to be a good move. That's when you know that the music is less of a trip, the actual vision, and more a song, based on a riff they found somewhere along their trips through many stages around the world.
Perhaps a lot of disappointment, lies in the area of the material that they were experimenting with on stage two years ago, one particular cut that had a middle keyboard passage that was reminiscent of Tangerine Dream -- only more rock oriented -- that was pretty much left behind, and another cut that had a low bass line that was somewhat reminiscent of "The Throbbe", which has become somewhat like the cut "Oddentity", which is by far the best listen in the album, in its unpredictability and totality of sound. Putting aside a backbeat that a machine could have done, of course .. but still very good.
All in all, while this is a very enjoyable listen (no Ozric Tentacles album fails to be one ), it is not the best one that the band has done, but I suppose that it is much better than a lot of the pretentious crap that gets played in the air waves. To my ear, this album, has a lot of the stuff that may just get it to mainstream American radio, as it is just soft enough to be an ear grabber, while also having the large guitar work that American audiences come to expect of the likes of Joe Satriani's. In this way, this album may mark a departure from what was indeed a very "British" sound, into one that may be more open to other ears, specially those who could bring in the mullah. But how sad, that all we end up looking for is another of Ed's well placed solos with a wonderful background of keyboard and various woodwinds, lessened by younger instrumentalists that do not have the capacity to help the music take full flight....
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