When the musical collective Broken Social Scene went on hiatus in 2011, thousands of its fans did not fret or post disparaging comments on the collective’s website, or worse, drum up a tragedy as horrible as the death of Pantera/Damageplan founding member Dimebag Darrell; they did not rush to the record store to buy up the collective’s discography, for fear there might never be another pressing until a greatest-hits compilation was seized upon by Warp Records. It was obvious that the nineteen-piece musical entity could never go in every direction every one of its members wanted, or could, but that its magic had to rest for a bit, so the collective could figure who and where they were now, as their own persons. The collective had been at it for ten great, long years. Read more
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.
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s human nature. But sometimes, there are a few moments in our lives where we must reflect on a decision and either justify it or accept it as a consequence of being incredibly bored. Sometime in 2002, I thought it was a good idea to buy “The Bathroom Wall” by SNL alum, Jimmy Fallon. Prior to this, the only exposure I had to this gentleman was watching him corpse in every single skit he was in. (For those of you uninitiated in the acting biz, “corpsing” is what happens when you break character and giggle like an idiot.) Before this, he pulled his unintentional Adam Sandler imitation and played parody songs on a guitar on Weekend Update, way back when Colin Quinn had an actual steady gig that didn’t involve him panhandling outside Rockefeller Plaza or begging Opie and Anthony for a celebrity guest spot.
I was asked to review this album as my first real review. And I sit here, struggling to find a reason to keep playing it. I’ll be honest. I’m listening to it in long intervals based solely on the fact that I become more and more irritated about how ham-fisted this production is. It’s not a rock album. It’s not a comedy album. So what is it? A bad idea come to fruition. At some point in his fledgling career; before NBC threw a dart at a board filled with B-list comedians to take over for Conan, someone greenlit this abomination. Someone sat down, talked to Jimmy Fallon and gave him thousands of dollars to go buckwild with. And through its conception and development, no one at Dreamworks Records decided to slam their godfist down on the stomach of the creative team and put this thing out of its hydrocephalic misery.
“Idiot Boyfriend” came on the radio and I remember thinking that it was a pretty decent send up of early 80′s love songs; you know, the ones that Prince still does but everyone thinks is new. It’s the simple screw up of the “parody” that makes this album fall far short of what it should have been. Fallon’s falsetto moaning over watching the Matrix and eating a Swanson’s dinner is about as gut-bustingly hilarious as watching yourself urinate blood while passing a kidney stone. And if that didn’t mangle your funny bone into several compound fractures, you are treated to four more songs that describe the zany perils of hunting, how white guys still can’t play basketball, why chicks can’t drive, and just how awesome a snowball fight really can be.
After you’ve made it through this roller coaster of mind blowing comedy, the album suddenly goes into a stand-up monologue recorded at what is most likely his own high school. He spends twenty minutes doing his entire routine, dedicating a whopping eleven and a half to “Troll Doll Jingles” and “Troll Doll Impersonations”; other comedians pitching those stupid plastic neon-haired pieces of junk as a product and popular songs with troll dolls as the main theme.
I’ll wait until you’re not in stitches anymore. No, really I will.
Granted, his impressions are merely O.K.; his Cliff Clavin is almost dead on, but it’s completely wasted on the demographic he’s entertaining. He actually prefaces who he’s about to impersonate as “The Mailman from Cheers.” Listen, bud. You said Cliff Clavin. I know who that is. Anyone older than twenty one knows who that is. You having to explain your jokes on stage usually means that you probably shouldn’t be doing them. If these mouth breathers have to do some Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Advanced Calculus to get to the punchline, please put the microphone down and go back to being the key grip at NBC Studios. On a side note, I also belong to that .0000000039 percentile that have to have complete albums on my iPod or I’ll go completely nuts from OCD inadequacy. I can promise you, if my iPod lasts for more than four years, the entirety of this album’s stand-up bits will be played at least four times—by accident.
Keep in mind, through all of what I have told you, this album was still nominated for a 2003 Grammy for Best Spoken Comedy Album. That’s right. A Grammy. You want to know why I’m so jaded against the music industry? Because despite our dysfunctional symbiotic relationship, I still expect it to treat me with a modicum of intelligence. And nominating this “album” makes no sense at all. It’s not rocking. It’s not funny. It’s simply just there. Staring at you like one of those kids from “Village of the Damned.” Only this time, you don’t have the luxury of detonating yourself along with a bomb and a copy of this CD.
Jimmy Fallon – The Bathroom Wall. Produced by The Soundhustlers. Released by Dreamworks Records on August 27, 2002.