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Pat Metheny - Zero Tolerance For Silence CD (album) cover


Pat Metheny

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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1 stars Legendary Work Up for Worst Album, err, Biggest Stones in History

I am surprised this album hasn't gotten more reviews because it has a very interesting place in history. It has the enviable position of being one of the albums up for the worst album ever. It probably does win the award for biggest head scratcher of all time. The basic uncontroversial fact is that smooth jazz giant Pat Metheny made a record of multitracked solo electric guitar playing seemingly random noodling on top of itself for an entire album. The tone used is itself shocking for those who know Metheny's work. Instead of smooth and almost too slick, the guitars here are dirty as the Mississippi Delta. The first track contains minute after minute of fast strumming on the distorted guitar with occasional possibly related solo guitar overdubbed in a very elementary fashion. Metheny's own description was that he wanted to make something basic and flat, "What I usually do in 3D I did this time in 2D." Whatever that means.

The controversy is "What in the heavens was he thinking?" The most popular theory is that the album is a big middle finger to his then record company, for whom this album finished a contract. Metheny has adamantly denied this, giving the above cryptic remark and saying he would never do anything so unprofessional. (Which admittedly jives with his normal behavior). There are some in noise circles who think this album is a work of genius (including Thurston More of Sonic Youth whose support is what forced the record company to release the record) and others who say it is a sad attempt by someone far outside his genre.

Frankly, what it sounds like to me, is something in between. The guy had a record owed to his company, drank a good number of his favorite vintage, and let the tape roll on what in his drunken state seemed like the most "out there" stuff he could come up with. He then tried to put some "outside" solos over the top, and walla, the owed album is done. Unfortunately, like many of us, he got tricked into thinking his altered explorations were better than they were. I suspect Metheny thinks there is some kind of magic hidden in this din, and some avant fans agree with him.

Myself, I can tolerate some very experimental music. But this is just too much not to call Shenanigans. I actually bought this album on a record club when it first came out in 1994, and was astounded when a poor unknowing record store owner bought it back about 5 years later. I went back and tried out what few samples are available on the net just to make sure before writing this review, and my memory was not mistaken.

This is Plan 9 from Outer Space. So bad it has a place of interest in history. St. Anger is a pale pale example compared to this, the most brazen assault on sensibility ever put out by a major artist on a major label. I actually hope this review gets a couple of avant fans to try it out and offer dissenting views, because the artist and the album deserve more than my input. Explore at your own risk and giddiment. Normal Pat Metheny fans, don't even go there.

Incidentally, I will be shortly submitting a probably 5 star review for Metheny's unbelievably perfect album The Way Up soon.

Report this review (#219695)
Posted Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars One of those few cases where you regret that PA rating system does not allow zero stars. Some hardcore avant-garde fans might say that this is sonic art (the CD came with an endorsing sticker quoting Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore saying "(?) a new milestone in electric guitar music (?) a challenge to the challengers"). Sorry, to me it's just noise.

Having enjoyed much of Metheny's output to that date I purchased this album without any reference when it came out, and after one or two bewildered listens it has remained gathering dust in its shelf for 18 years. I listened to it twice again before writing this review and my opinion has not changed.

A theory is that Metheny had to make one more album to complete his contract with Geffen and he delivered this as a way of saying "scr*w you". Personally I find it unlikely that Geffen would be so naïve as to release it unless they also wanted to stop their bond to Metheny quickly at any cost. Metheny of course denied it and argued that this was the music he felt like doing, in his words "that record speaks for itself in its own musical terms. To me, it is a 2-D view of a world in which I am usually functioning in a more 3-D way". Whatever that might mean?

What we have is an album recorded only with guitar, 98% electric with heavily distorted or at least crunch sound and only some acoustic guitar on the last "Part 5". We could say it's just continuous noise improvisation, the only fact that prevents me from making such a statement is that for the most part the guitar is overdubbed in the 2 channels and the fact that both channels have a more or less synchronized and more or less "harmonic" (take the expression with caution since a lot of it is dissonant) coordination confirms that he had some kind of a score. I can appreciate that it's not just wild pointless improvisation but a deliberate recording.

Some segments are bearable and can remind of Robert Fripp's most experimental music (particularly in "Part 3") or even Brian May's famous delayed solos (in "Part 2"), and "Part 5" with some acoustic guitar can sound a bit more melodical, but in general it's extremely hard for me to stand this album from beginning to end.

Not even for Metheny completionists, only for extremely hardcore avant fans.

Report this review (#748821)
Posted Friday, May 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The wealth of negative ratings here should tell you that something is actually happening with this music.

By reading the other reviews here, you'd suspect PM attempted to create another record consistent with his group recordings, more mildly swinging and melodic offerings, played with virtuosity, broadly appealing to fans of so-called "jazz music" and "rock music" alike -- but he failed. Come on. PM knew what he was doing. His records are generally popular (or, at least, popular relative to other records store clerks file under "jazz"), and he's made quite a few for Geffen. This has allowed him to insist to his record company that this music be released to the public. Geffen agreed, likewise knowing what it was releasing.

Living deep within Pat Metheny's soul is a musical scientist. He knows what he's doing, he sets his own parameters, imposes his own structure and draws his own conclusions. Usually, he's the long-haired picker with the winning smile who leads his virtuoso band through familiar and appealing territory. Occasionally he's the Ornette Coleman acolyte paying homage to the master (those outings are likewise mostly panned by reviewers from his usual audience). Here he stands alone, having succeeded in bringing to his listeners a stark and unforgiving music which they'd never elect to put in their ears had they known better. It's a bold risk which has not resulted in his legions of fans suddenly embracing textured music in which harmony and meter are not prioritized. I doubt he expected such.

I shall not attempt to describe the music on this recording. Professor Monk's phrase "dancing about architecture" applies. I find the music here to be immensely revealing about Pat Metheny the musician and the guitar player (yes, there is an important distinction). If you're expecting a follow-up to "San Lorenzo," then this music is difficult. Try taking it on its own terms. It's a strong shot of espresso -- or whiskey. But it bears repeated listening. At times, the music is quite gentle and nuanced. Give it a chance.

Or, don't. But please recognize that an artist violating expectations, even for such learned and esteemed listeners whose reviews grace these pages, risks a strong, negative backlash, not for the music itself, but for the unmet anticipation.

Report this review (#1245159)
Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Good Heavens!

I can't say I like experimental music too much. But, when listening to the likes of Elliott Sharp or Ornette Coleman or George Antheil or Mary Halvorson (God love her) I can objectively recognize and appreciate the merit their innovative effort even without being able to enjoy the music on a purely emotional level.

In other words, to get a one star review from me, you need to really hit my aesthetic taste buds with something really, really foul.

IMO, the Zero Tolerance for Silence is an acoustically offensive waste of 38 minutes. To sum up its essence and contents, it consists of a series of distorted guitar tracks, dubbed over other distorted guitar tracks and over still other ones, for the whole duration of the album. It's a close musical equivalent of randomly shooting a few hundred pain tballs of different colors against a concrete wall and calling the result a mural.

Report this review (#1246852)
Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars The unimaginative creations of a highly skilled performer.

Jazz/Fusion fans have punished this "Zero Tolerance for Silence", Pat Metheny´s 1994 project. Yes, it is hideous but no big news. In fact it is an extraordinary lesson in self-contempt and self indulgence both. I mean, this cd was not given away, but sold! (If you want to hate me, pay for it!)

Lesson 2: No matter how well skilled you are at your weapon of choice, music writing is another galaxy.

Lesson 3: Is no big news Pat Metheny is no "big leagues" composer. Even though, everybody associates him of being Steve Reich´s choice for his 1987 ¨Electric Counterpoint¨, (the electric guitar version of a series of ongoing Reich´s ¨Counterpoints¨), the 3 piece composition was written solely by Reich. (Who humbly admits taking ¨guitar playing¨ advise for its recording by Pat, but that is it.)

Lesson who cares: Everybody knows Metheny´s best attribute is the mastering of his guitars. (Which he owns and displays proudly , like fellow virtuous guitarist and also "minor" composer, Steve Howe.)

How bad? Not worth my time, even for free! But an extraordinary master-class in "IT TAKES MORE THAN PERFORMING SKILLS TO BE AND BECOME A GIFTED COMPOSER", in the never ending music composition´s quest.

**2 (could be worse, at least he is honestly mediocre) PA stars.

Report this review (#1253415)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2014 | Review Permalink

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