Adrian Belew - Coming Attractions
(Thirsty Ear Recordings)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Story by Tony BonyataEver since Frank Zappa discovered him playing at a hotel lounge and asked him to join his band as guitarist, Adrian Belew has been juggling many different musical projects. His in-demand session work over the last three decades reads like a who's who of cutting edge artists. David Bowie, the Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, King Crimson, and, more recently, Nine Inch Nails have all utilized Belew's unique, experimental guitar to take their own music to new places.
Despite his busy schedule recording and touring with other artists, one-time Lake Geneva resident Belew has always managed to find the time to squeeze in his own solo projects. These albums range from quirky David Byrne-like pop (The Lone Rhino and Twang Bar King), avant garde experimentation (Desire Caught By The Tail and Volume One: Guitar As Orchestra) and delicious pop filled with sumptuous vocals and creative guitar-work (Mr. Music Head, Young Lions, Inner Revolution and Here).
His latest disc, Coming Attractions, is a glimpse into some of the works in process that will be released over the next year - all of which feature elements from his previous efforts. All of the instruments are played by Belew, except for one number which features new material from his own band The Bears (another one of ongoing side projects).
The album opens with a cacophony of guitar noises that whip, squall and bombard as the number quickly unfolds into a smile-inducing slice of pop rock on "Inner Man", from his yet untitled next solo album. This style of music has infatuated Belew since his youth when he first heard The Beatles. He sings of this early fondness for the Fab ones along with Bear bandmates Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger and Chris Arduser on "117 Valley Drive", the address of his parents house where he used to play Beatle covers as a teen in his first band The Denems. "People came with kids and dogs, and sat out on the lawn and they sang along with 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Ticket To Ride', Belew sings as if he can still smell the lemonade in his parents backyard.
Touching on his more experimental work that will be released in the future is "Animal Kingdom" from the "The Experimental Guitar Series Volume 2". With just an acoustic drumkit and his guitar, Belew takes us on a 12 minute journey through the heart of the rain forest as his guitar mimics birds, elephants and water buffalo intermingling with exotic African rhythms, or as Belew aptly puts it, "National Geographic for your ears."
He further pushes the creative envelope on the heavy, King Crimson-bent instrumental "Predator Feast", also from his next solo effort, that finds Belew's fierce unpredictable guitar chewing up and spitting out everything in its path.
To celebrate his 20-year anniversary of his first solo record and joining of King Crimson, Belew will be releasing an exhaustive 90 track box set next year entitled Dust , which will feature unreleased songs, outtakes, demo tapes, alternative mixes, live recordings and other surprises. While this may be a bit much for the casual Belew fan to digest, its bound to please the guitar straps off the devoted of this musical genius. On Coming Attractions he gives us a peek into some of this material from Dust. Old, familiar favorites such as witty nonsense of "Bird In A Box", "House Of Cards", "The Man In The Moon" and a funky early version of King Crimson's "People" are cast in a much different light than on their original released forms.
By giving his audience a small taste of what he's got in store for them on Coming Attractions, they can choose which Belew will be right for them - creative popster, experimental scientist of sound or an insightful musical autobiography of a multi-talented artist.
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