BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO: IL 13 (1994)
1) Dove Non Arrivano Gli Occhi; 2) Sirene; 3) Brivido; 4) Sirene, Pt. 2; 5) Guardami Le Spalle; 6) Anche Dio; 7) Spudorata (pi-ppò); 8) Bambino; 9) Tremila; 10) Rimani Fuori; 11) Emiliano; 12) Mister Rabbit; 13) Magari Che (Gargarismo); 14) Tirami Una Rete; 15) Bisbigli.
Finally, a proper attempt to justify the band's obstinate craving for survivalism — an entirely new studio album of freshly composed material that tries to put the mutuo soccorso back into the banco, if you get my drift. An hour's worth of music that still retains plenty of «body power», but, first time in years, sounds motivated by ambition and exploration rather than pure dumb fashion — a chance to really tell the world that the true Banco never really went away, they just spent fifteen years getting DiGiacomo's beard out of the drum machine.
Perhaps the results could have been better if they hadn't lost Gianni in the scuffle. Without one of the two key links in the chain, Banco would never be able to restore its classic sound — and, in fact, they are honestly not even attempting to do it. Instead, their conception of «seriousness» in music now involves a propensity for heavy funk — the «rock» in the «return to prog-rock» agenda is understood as chuggy syncopated guitar riffs, jumpy bass, and loud, but simple drum patterns. They had already toyed with R&B elements several times in their «lost years» — now all they have to do is cleanse it from the ugliness of Eighties' production, add extra bridge sections and extend the jam parts, and presto... Art!
Well, not really. Actually, the songs aren't bad — they don't sound particularly silly, and for that reason alone, are nowhere near as offensive as it used to be (except that the chorus of ʽMister Rabbitʼ, with its peculiar Italian insistence on loudly pronouncing the second word as «rah-bit», brings on inappropriate visions of kindergartens). They are simply «sparkless» — no matter how fast or frenetic or ecstatic they want to make themselves look on something like ʽSireneʼ, it does not sound convincing, not even when their new guitarist Max Smeraldi breaks into a furious Van Halen-esque metal solo. ʽBrividoʼ, on the other hand, shows that they still carry a strain of the «glam-pop» virus — the song begins in atmospheric, Floydian, mode, then proceeds into the regular «anthemic» territory (pompous synths, big booming drums, and not a lot in the way of interesting melody or subtle nuances). And it isn't even contagious.
Arguably the best of the lot are several «experimental» numbers deprived of vocals — ʽAnche Dioʼ, for instance, echoes New Wave-era King Crimson with its tricky, off-balance time signatures and dissonant processed guitars à la Adrian Belew; and ʽEmilianoʼ is a showcase for Vittorio's jazz piano skills, although it is hardly likely to ever replace Thelonious Monk on your Ipod — outside of this album, ʽEmilianoʼ will probably shrivel and die in seconds. Then there are the acoustic ballads that require the usual tolerance / passion for Italian pop traditions (ʽTirami Una Reteʼ, ʽRimani Fuoriʼ, etc.) — still miles above the smelly plastic pablum of...
...yet, anyway, I do not understand why I should be forced to feel good about this record just because it is less embarrassing than E Via — no Herculean feat, really, to make an album that would sound less embarrassing than E Via, especially in 1994, when musical fashion temporarily took a turn for the better. In retrospect, Il 13 is simply tolerable, but boring: Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso are on an egotistical mission to prove that they, Banco, are still a musical force — and this whole «let us make a stereotypical Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso album, and throw in a few funky arrangements to throw them off the scent» attitude is an overall failure. Oh, and it's pathetically overlong — a whole sixty minutes of this futuristic nostalgia? Thumbs down.