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Adrian Belew - Desire Caught By The Tail CD (album) cover

DESIRE CAUGHT BY THE TAIL

Adrian Belew

 

Eclectic Prog

3.41 | 29 ratings

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TCat
Special Collaborator
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars Sometimes I wonder if we try to measure Adrain Belew up to the levels of the output he had while with King Crimson, when you really look at his career, it was quite variable. He has been involved with many different artists, from Frank Zappa to Talking Heads to Celine Dion to Nine Inch Nails. So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that his solo discography varies so much. Way back to the first of his solo efforts, his first two albums were considered art-pop, somewhat accessible, but with an edge of ingenuity to them, but always with his unique style of guitar and vocals. His third album, however, shows his experimental side.

"Desire Caught By the Tail" is the name of the album and it features only Belew playing all of the instruments. It also takes his avant-garde, experimental guitar work to the extremes, but like his KC partner Robert Fripp, he uses certain albums to show off his unique way of creating effects and textures from electric guitar and guitar synths. Unlike Fripp on his more experimental albums, however, Belew relies more on melodic music to display his experimental side. This is also the album that Belew claims cost him his major label contract, because it was so uncommercial. But, there is no doubt that the man can create some interesting effects, and from the history he has had playing with such instrumental greats, you know he is talented even if you go on his credits alone. I guess that is one of the things that intrigues me about him.

Right off the bat, "Tango Zebra" takes us off into some unique sounding territory, where he can make his guitar sound almost like a violin with a brass undertone. He layers different sounding guitars together, and they create some odd counterpunctual lines. But all the while doing this, he also remains tied to the main theme of the song, basing his counter melodies on that. No doubt, you hear some harsh textures and metallic noises that are appealing, yet can also make you cringe, but that is the texture he is shooting for, and you would definitely find it difficult to locate someone that can create those textures as well as he can. Meanwhile, during his experimental explorations, he can still fit some technically difficult standard playing in there just to prove that he has the talent. But, just listen to this track, and you will be amazed that all of this is done with guitars (except for the percussion). Sure, some of it is created by accessing the manipulating power of the synthesizer, but still, it's pretty amazing.

"Laughing Man" is a bit more accessible as it follows a waltz-style beat and a strong melodic line. But again, just listen to those layers of guitars, creating a band of their own. He can even create an authentic calliope sound while he's at it. The middle of the track loses the beat and meanders around a bit, but you still get interesting sounds there, and you would almost think you are listening to a string quartet, except for the obvious synth sound that accompanies it all. "The Gypsy Zuma" takes on a Romanian style, venturing into a more psychedelic sound. Belew uses his trademark elephant improvisation at times here.

"Portrait of Margaret" has a catchy beat, and a lot of cool effects, but the brassy playing is a bit too harsh for it all to be accessible. If you listen to his more art-pop albums and even the Discipline-era KC albums, you will hear some of the effects and textures that he uses to a more restrained effect, and they are much easier to take in these smaller doses, but an album full of tracks that use these to excess is a bit much. After this, Belew moves into a more meandering mood with some short tracks that sound more like he is just messing around with sounds that rely less on melody and more on texture. The album finishes off with "Z". This is probably the most experimental of all, being more ambient and loose feeling, at least in the first half, but it suddenly catches a beat part way through. Novelty laugh boxes start to sound off and layers of sustained guitars start to drone along to the beat as voices talk and laugh. This all turns a bit chaotic as it goes on.

This is definitely not one for the masses, but it is a bit shallow and harsh even for those that appreciate experimental music. This is its biggest down fall, not so much the experimental side as the sometimes annoying harshness of it all. Still, I like to listen to it once in a while, because even among the hair-raising sounds, it has some interesting and appealing textures. It comes out quite even when all is said and done, the first half being a bit more accessible than the 2nd half, but only because the 1st half seems to be built more around melodic structure while the 2nd half tends to meander around. It's not really what you would call essential because it didn't end up having a lot of influence on music, and it is a bit weak, so its not excellent either, but I can call it good at least.

TCat | 3/5 |

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