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Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group - The Complex
(Lava Records)
2 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 10, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

Blue Man Group, a trio of cobalt hued performance artists / musicians, have just released their second album of music, entitled The Complex, and while the techno-light, percussive-heavy music of founders Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink works wonders with their eye-popping live show (a theatrical production which has been playing to sold-out audiences in New York, Chicago and Boston over the last decade), on record the music comes off cold and lifeless.
Pounding tribal beats and percolating polyrhythms, played out on unusual instruments, such as PVC piping, as well as Dr. Suess-ian thingamajigs called Tubulums, Drumulums, Piano Smashers and Cimbaloms, abound throughout this highly textured album, which ranges from Madonna-like techno ("Up To The Roof" featuring Tracy Bonham on vocals), avant metal ("What Is Rock") and ambient soundscapes ("Exhibit 13" and "Shadows Part 2").
The album works best when guest artists occasionally drop in for a visit. Dave Matthews adds a deliciously smokey vocal to the laid-back rubbery blues of "Sing Along," while Esthero's intoxicating vocals on a spiked take of Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic standard "White Rabbit" turns the song from a heady trip to a slinky strip tease. Vocalist Avram Gleitsman also adds a cool, dry vocal delivery on the Nine Inch Nails-esque aggro-metal number "The Current."
On the downside, however, there's just too much high octane filler running on ambient fumes. Numbers such as "Piano Smasher" and "Exhibit 13" quickly fizzle as they dizzy themselves trying to catch their own tail. On the dirgey number "Persona" Josh Haden's "I'm-too-sexy-for-your-PVC-piping" bedroom croon grows tiresome before the three blue boys even work up a minor sweat on their plastic percussive jungle gyms.
While as a recording act Blue Man Group still shows some potential, without the visual awe, spectacle and humor of their live performance nowhere in sight, this trio of cerulean eggheads probably would've done everybody a big favor by instead releasing this audio album as a DVD; so the technicolor soul of their performance could be seen as well as heard.

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