Record Review: Buckethead – Giant Robot (1994)
I first became aware of Buckethead sometime around in 2000. An acquaintance of mine said that I needed to check this guy out because he “shreds.” “Shredding” is the lamest description of guitar playing ever invented. When you say that, it conjures images of The Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And you know what? He’s not in a band, because if he was, I’d have all of his albums and they’d probably be better than Yngwie Malmsteen’s entire discography. I was apprehensive at first in purchasing a Buckethead album since up to this point he had released a total of five albums, all of which this obvious fanboy gushed over. I bought “Giant Robot.” I listened to a few tracks off and on for the first month. After that, it had found a permanent home in a dust covered CD binder I have named “That Which I Must Never Hear.”
Almost a decade later was I able to pull it from its darkened coffin and rip it to my hard drive, just waiting to unleash the massive guitar storm I was surely in for. Like a sailor, trying to survive a giant squall at midnight, I buckled myself in, ready to face whatever came my way. I made it through nineteen tracks of pure guitar amazingness that was unfairly ruined by skits, awkward conversations, and annoying dialog. It’s a lot like being at a concert where the sound is amazing, but there’s a group of girls in the background either singing along off-key in the background or killing your brain cells about Twilight.
Buckethead is the on stage persona of Brian Patrick Carroll, a legitimately awesome guitar player. He’s done work with people like Bootsy Collins, Serj Tankian, and Les Claypool. He even toured with Guns N’ Roses as a part of their official line-up proving that Axl Rose can make at least one good decision in his life. With the kind of talent Buckethead’s been harnessing since he was twelve, it’s no wonder that to date he has released twenty eight albums and performed on well over fifty. To put it mildly, he plays guitar like most people go to the bathroom; completely second nature. And it shows.
“Giant Robot” is a pretty good snapshot of what it looks like inside Buckethead’s subconscious. A world where he is the main attraction at an amusement park, ingeniously titled “Bucketheadland.” In “Bucketheadland”, the rides are either as comforting and enjoyable as a lazy river with such tracks as “Binge and Purge”, “Aquabot”, and “Robot Transmission.” And then the floor falls out from under you with tracks that really do “shred” such as “Welcome To Bucketheadland” and “Want Some Slaw?” But the major gripe that I have about this album, is despite his technical ability, despite his flawless key changes, riffs, and power chords, almost every track is ruined by the aforementioned speeches and conversations.
Some tracks are just pure insanity and not in any pleasurable way whatsoever. “Buckethead’s Chamber Of Horrors”, “Warweb”, and “Buckethead’s TV Show” are examples of this. To show you just how stomach churning this last track I mentioned is, it contains a conversation between a full grown man and what I can only assume is his daughter, refusing to let her play with a toy unless they discuss last week’s Buckethead show. The show in question is Buckethead walking around in blood before being ladled out of chicken soup. This merges into violins and electric guitars replicating what can only be described as the soundtrack to a Nazi Deathmarch. The creepiness monitor blows a gasket. It’s official audio mathematical equation is “What The Hell” times a thousand, divided by “What Am I Hearing?!”, to the power of “I’m Going To Have A Daymare, Right Now.”
You have to wonder if Mister Carroll just bought a new vocoder and decided to screw around on it, throwing extra tracks on the album and making it look like a steal at 14.99. I can’t explain these tracks as anything other than completely unnecessary and disturbing. If you can manage to ignore this flaw, then “Giant Robot” is a very good album. Even being released in ’94, it still holds up as a virtuoso achievement in the study of several styles of jazz, funk, rock, and avant-garde.
Buckethead – Giant Robot. Produced by Bill Laswell. Released by Sony Japan/CyberOctive on November 3, 1994.
Dante Villanova is an avid freelance fiction writer, movie reviewer, and video game enthusiast. He dual wields sarcasm and cynicism like twin katanas and enjoys filleting pop culture for sport.