An enjoyable expedited experience for every ear.
Sorry, I'm in the mood for alliteration.
Skitzo Calypso may be a name new to you, but they've been around since 1996. Originally created as a solo project for singer/guitarist, Brad Cox (check out his new solo project We Love The Underground), it eventually morphed into a concerted group effort. Ghosts is the most recent product of this effort, audibly built by Cox, lead guitarist Bryan Holmes, drummer Gary Holmes, and bassist Zeke Johnson. While not very lengthy, one shouldn't be hasty to judge this EP as falling short. The five tracks here tease us with the future of the band, providing a small window in which to view the road they hope to take.
Skitzo Calypso enticed me. I had seen them open at a show I recently attended and found their tenacity, especially that of their lead singer, to be appealing. Though he was faced with a lukewarm audience, he performed with all the energy he possessed. Returning home, I investigated their music more and discovered a treasure trove of great songs, as well as the knowledge of a solo project by that tenacious frontman, Brad Cox. We Love The Underground is his vision, which combines various musical styles into songs that are not only interesting, but catchy as well! I've let the album grow on me over the last two weeks and I'm thrilled to share with you what I've found.
In a pre-release statement, Cox said that the album title refers to how media and marketing infiltrate our day-to-day lives. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of time to synthesize down our true emotions and thoughts,” he said, “without being interrupted with false ideologies, hope, agenda, propaganda and group think. The way our society is constructed doesn’t allow for a lot of soul searching, which is what I wanted to do on this record.” The album artwork does a wonderful job of tapping into this idea, displaying a present-day interpretation of Lady Liberty transformed from a symbol of freedom to an over-privileged teenager, neglectful of her people, standing on a modern foundation of gossip and materialism. As vivid as this statement is, and as much as I agree with the sentiment, the music is why we're really here. And for good reason!
The Day The Devil Fooled The World is packed to the brim with track after track that pulls you in and refuses to let go. While admittedly, I found the opener, “Afire”, to fall short of greatness, the rest of the album makes up for it in spades. The album takes off in a splendid way with the second track, “The Sharper Your Love”. Starting off small, it grows to epic proportions through the use of orchestral strings and scratch guitar, swelling into a brilliant chorus and beautiful solo. No song faulters from here to the end, though the style adjusts to the mood. Soon we find ourselves listening to a pop-induced, upbeat tune entitled, “Back To The Cold War”, which could have found a home just as easily on The Darkness' second album. Later on the record, we encounter “Let No Hand Hold Us Down”, a truly empowering powerhouse that fills you with energy and gets your fist slamming against imaginary doors in the air. “The Ties” takes us to the other end of the spectrum, plummeting us to the depths of hopelessness and tragedy, as Cox sings about the lost relationship between himself and his mother. And I can't forget to mention the closing self-titled track, where we're greeted by horns, an electro-funk bass drum, as well as stunning classical Spanish-laced guitar solos. When he starts singing like Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose...well, a listener might not know what to do with themselves!
Brad Cox has a talent for writing great songs. I've been listening to his collaborations with others, as well as his solo project for a few weeks now, and on only a few occasions am I not as awed by the result. But not only is he a great songwriter, but he's a fine musician as well. After seeing Skitzo Calypso, I assumed that he was mainly a rhythm guitar player, which he may be. But here we find several moments of great fretboard finesse, not the least of which is the solo for “The Sharper Your Love”, which is melodically tasteful, but blisteringly fast. However, his main instrument is his voice, which he uses to great effect. I don't know where he grew up, but he possesses an accent that carries into his singing, and I constantly get the feeling that he's British. But what's important about him isn't his accent, but the way he sings. Whether he aims to empower or lament, his voice is filled with energy, as though he's tearing away pieces of himself and handing them out to the listener. The Day The Devil Fooled The World is a jigsaw puzzle of Cox's soul that he's laid out for all to see, and when we take a step back we can see the beauty and tragedy that has colored it.
For more on We Love The Underground, visit:
Buy "The Day The Devil Fooled The World": Amazon | CDBaby | From The Band!
Brutality with zero latency. X, by the masterful do-it-yourself guitarist, Joboj, begins with an all out assault as soon as you hit play. Shortly into the opening track, appropriately entitled “Chest Compression V.6”, we are pushed out by the riff-tide into an anxious audible area filled with incomprehensible murmuring and steadily quickening “beeps”. As these things go, the track explodes once more, this time into a groove-filled rhythm backed by turn-table scratches and wailing guitar wizardry. This is just the beginning of things to come. You may be unaware of it now, but you're in for a funky, groovy, brutal, melodic, chromatically careening ride to a place you've never heard before.
You'll love it.
This is a review I've been wanting to write ever since I began Better B#, but one I put off until very recently. Was it that the world just wasn't ready for this guitar marvel, also known as Joe Bochar, who plays every instrument on the album, including programming drums -- done better than any I have heard before or since? Or was it that his recent focus on being a guitar luthier over a musical artist resulted in a feeling of less urgency for me? Perhaps I simply wanted to hone my writing skills a little more to do justice to such a fine example of music. I don't know, alright!
X is the third instrumental guitar album from Joboj, and without a doubt his most developed in terms of songwriting and production. I am extremely uneasy to please when it comes to instrumental albums. I usually long for the variety of a voice, and with it an additional connection to the music through lyrical subject matter. Even some of my favorite guitarists have released purely instrumental albums that I can't make myself sit through. It often becomes a monotonous stream of high speed guitar solos over a backing track of some sort. The albums that Joboj has released, with X as the pinnacle, have been some of the chosen few that I can listen to attentively, or let drone on in the background, that never once bore me. His ability to make a cohesive piece of music, rather than one purely serving the purpose of propping up his fretboard abilities, set him apart from so many of his guitarist peers.
While Joe's previous album, Orange, was a brightly colored adventure in melody, X finds him in a moodier, brooding place. Both albums were released after moving to Los Angeles, and it is as if the former embodies the surf and sands, while the latter focuses on the dark underbelly of the city. Despite saying that, X is not based on the concept of Los Angeles' darker side, but more likely the mood of the music is simply influenced by it. Rather, if we look at the artwork for the album, we immediately notice a Matrix-esque image of an individual who is either “plugged in” or actually a part of a computer system. Questioning whether we are a number, composed of 0's and 1's, or even commenting on our growing technological dependencies also accounts for such a dark tone. However, as it is an instrumental album, aside from the artwork, all we have to judge the intent of the album are the song titles, which consist of curiosities such as the sinister surf tune, “Vulcanized Rubberneck”, the paranoia-inducing mellowness of “Tryptophen Junkie”, and the absolutely funk-filled album closer, “Screaming Chicken”. Right in the middle of this brooding environment is a complete change of scenery. One moment we are amidst a sorrowful series of arpeggios and the next we are swept up into the one cheerful song on the entire album, shining like a warm sun arriving between sections of a dreary storm. This little cozy tune is oddly entitled “Bitch” and fills me with joy every time I hear it.
You don't have to be a fan of “guitar music” to enjoy X, though if you fancy artists like Joe Satriani, Buckethead, and the solo work of Gun N' Roses guitarist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, you'll be pleased to find that Joboj is no slouch. Bochar gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy his work by making it as if a group of mutually talented musicians came together and put a little piece of each of themselves into the songs. While he does take liberties every once in a while to melt your face off with his soloing exploits, overall the guitar serves the song, rather than the song serving the guitar. As I find myself arriving at the end of the album, I suddenly appear back at the start of it, finding that I need to take “just one more listen.” I have played this album for years, yet I still find myself pleasantly surprised at all the intricacies that have been placed meticulously for my aural pleasure. X is, quite simply, a damn good album.
I love it.
For more on Joboj, visit:
Buy "X": iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby
Official Joe Bochar Guitars Website
Official Joe Bochar Guitars Facebook
Official Joe Bochar Guitars Twitter