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Adrian Belew - Side One CD (album) cover

SIDE ONE

Adrian Belew

 

Eclectic Prog

3.45 | 41 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
4 stars King Crimson meets The Mars Volta.

It's a pretty simple combination, really. You take Belew's experience from King Crimson's 80's days with electronic beats, soundscapes and good lyrical composition with the frantic panic of TMV's angst-filled prog punk. It makes perfect sense when you hear it.

Take "Ampersand". You can already hear TMV influences from the massive feedback intro to the breakbeat drumming that accompanies the steady chords, yet Belew manages to make it a good listen by providing us with wonderful harmonies and great compositional skills. Now, it's probably not a catchy chorus that you'll be singing all day in your office cuticle, but it can easily get stuck in your head as a simple head bobber, until the very end, where the frantic drumming and loud guitar screams are completely evidence of TMV's influence on this particular record. I, as a drummer, could not even fathom how exhausted Danney Carey must've been once that song was over.

"Writing On The Wall" almost starts in a similar TMV fashion, but the bass is more evident, almost like Les Claypool from Primus infamy is slapping the bass on here (oh wait, he is!). That obviously contributes to the more funky side of this particular track, but the particular drum patterns here emphasize the hi-hat to extreme use, while Belew continues to showcase his fuzzbox-ish guitar sounds, but the similar playing of TMV's Omar Rodriguez- Lopez keeps coming to mind on this track. More similarites? Maybe.

"Matchless Man" is an absolutely wonderful piece. I remember finding this disc 4 years ago, listened to it for a good year, then sort of fell to the wayside, but once I picked it back up again, it was love at first listen...again. The opening chords sends chills down the spine as Carey shows off again, this time with the infamous Indian tablas. This is also where Belew's King Crimson days kick in, where the songwriting of those "popular" tracks kicks in. More than that, though, it almost seems his voice is absolutely perfect for the mood created in this track, almost a hypnotic, intoxicating environment, also evidenced by the addition of Gary Lee Tussing's cello.

"Madness" has a creepy intro similar to TMV's creepy outros. Even the atonal chords from Belew's guitar resemble TMV's...atonal...chords. Little bit of resemblence? Maybe, but Claypool seems to attempt a funky rescue mission that ends in vain. If you focus on Belew, the song really goes nowhere (so it seems), but if you focus on Claypool, you can pick up a funky melody (a trait he does so well in Primus, even though I personally don't like that band). Of course, that pretty much goes on like that for the rest of the track.

Quick interruption from the review; Out of the three "Side" albums Belew has recorded, "One" is obviously my favorite. I personally love King Crimson and TMV, so this a perfect mix of prog and accessibility thanks to Belew's experience with King Crimson's 80's records which tended to appeal to radio listeners more than prog fanatics. "Two" is a comparitively heavier release with even more electronic influence, almost like a Nine Inch Nails record, while "Three" is almost a combination of both "One" and "Two". Obviously the experimentation is there from "Two" ("The Red Bull...", "Cinemusic", "Incompetence Indifference"), and the funk is still there ("Troubles", "Whatever") along with the atmospheric tunes ("Drive", "Water Turns To Wine") and a potential Coldplay killer? (Men In Helicopters V 4.0)

However, it continues to be the diversity of tracks on "One" that, while they are a bit experimental, the melodies are still there and they keep get me coming back to these tracks. "Walk Around The World" is no exception. The 2 second intro is a bit TMV-ish, but the funk comes back, the beat is ever prevelant, and hell, sometimes I just get up and dance to the beat! No, it's not a club beat, but it gets you moving. Yet you can hear it easily; the experimentation mixing with melody, catchy verses/chorus as well as Belew's easily accessible voice. "Beat Box Guitar" is another good beat (perhaps evidenced by the name). It's not necessarily a fast beat, but it's another funky beat that can get you moving around, and while these tracks are pretty easily listenable (in my opinion), it's the few tracks after that may get a bit complicated.

"Under The Radar" sort of begins where "Beat Box Guitar" ends, and it's a sharp contrast from the former, as it's a mostly acoustic guitar-laden track with atmospheric sounds and Belew's voice, once again, bathing the air with solace and serenity. It seems to be a good track to just soak in a spa, until the weird car honking-esque noises piss you off. "Elephants" starts off with some BBC broadcast, then goes into a seven beat chord progression and Belew's hardcore heavy guitar playing (more Buckethead-esque if you ask me) behind what sounds like a jet engine starting up along with some weird guy talking in the background about elephants getting exterminated and eradicated or something like that. And of course, such disc ends with "Pause" starting off with the sound of burning fire, taiko drums, weird clicking noises, somber cello and of course, the sound of death itself (that omnious sound that reminds you of a dark howling wind, except you know something bad is going to happen, like what happens in horror movies; nothing good happens in horror movies).

In all, King Crimson fans of all shapes and sizes should give this disc a listen (along with "Op Zop Too Wah" and "Side Three"). This disc pretty much gives you that "radio-listening" ability 80's King Crimson discs (80's records period) provided along with experimentation of King Crimson old and of course, Belew's guitar playing himself. There's really nothing here that should catch any long-time fans off guard, so any good fan of eclectic prog will be delighted with a purchase of this disc.

Wicket | 4/5 |

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