ADEBISI SHANK: THIS IS THE THIRD ALBUM OF A BAND CALLED ADEBISI SHANK (2014)
1) World In Harmony; 2) Big Unit; 3) Turnaround; 4) Mazel Tov; 5) Thundertruth; 6) Sensation; 7) Chaos Emeralds; 8) Voodoo Vision; 9) (Trio Always).
The third and the last, apparently — only one month after the record's release, Adebisi Shank announced they'd be splitting up, what with Larry Kaye being involved in several other bands at the same time (possibly as a more authoritarian bandleader, I have no idea). Perhaps the split will not be for eternity, or maybe some new phoenix will rise out of the older's ashes — all the more desirable since this third record clearly shows that they may have run out of money, or of love for each other, but definitely not out of creative ideas.
The album begins with a clearly intentional «band-as-orchestra» quotation of the main riff from ʽLet It Beʼ — match it with the title ʽWorld In Harmonyʼ and Lady Irony is upon us, because ten seconds into the song, Adebisi Shank are back to their usual tricks, piecing together disparate melodic strings that borrow almost chaotically from every musical genre imaginable. ʽWorld In Harmonyʼ alone is classical, pop, blues-rock, country-western, and speed metal, sometimes at the same time, as the guitar lays hard rock chords over a Beethovenish synth pattern.
Most importantly, though, the third album establishes its own face by going for the grand style. The overdubs get denser, more bombastic and anthemic than ever before — this is Adebisi Shank getting out of the heat of the small club and well into the open air, delivering their schizophrenically deconstructed Odes to Joy to the entire world. There is also less emphasis on guitar virtuosity and much more on composition, development, and, so to speak, «angularity» of the particular tracks — I guess that, technically, this makes Third even more of a «math-rock» record than First and Second, but, strangely enough, it does not feel that way. Maybe because the songs are catchier and the themes seem to make more emotional sense.
With nearly all the songs striving for this «bigness», and with the band's clever selection of the appropriate major chords, the album is segmentable into similar-themed movements rather than distinct songs, and the whole thing is like one big symphony: I did not namedrop Beethoven for nothing, and wouldn't be surprised to find him among these guys' influences — ʽVoodoo Visionʼ, the album's grand closing, may begin with what rather suspiciously sounds like Windows' standard speaker test, but soon enough it will move into a grandiose, life-asserting theme that cannot even be spoiled by the silly electronically-encoded vocals (that, too, is part of the schtick, because what's a proper futuristic 21st century symphonic piece without electronic encoding?).
ʽBig Unitʼ is a little more personal and close-by, sounding like a big friendly monster slowly, but accurately moving through the city as crowds of observers cheer in admiration and wave the flags. ʽMazel Tovʼ adds an R&B-influenced brass component and a funky bassline for about four minutes of a soundtrack to a happy, if a bit too sternly regulated, party. Only ʽSensationʼ, with its accelerated tempo and hyper-bubbling synth patterns, sounds a bit too frenzied and nervous for the album's overall vibe, but it would still be a stretch to call the song «dark» or «aggressive» — rather, it is just a temporary detour from the anthemic happiness, a «breather» of sorts.
I would like to go for a little controversy here and say that, as long as we're talking about «weird», «innovative», and «meaningful» all in one, I actually prefer Third to any single album by The Animal Collective — not that this band ever had, or will have, any hopes of approaching the fame of the authors of Merriweather Post Pavillion, because they have no vocals (beyond those few instances of electronic grunts) and because their main influences seem to be outside the stereotypical hipster range (Beach Boys, etc.). But don't let that stop you from enjoying them — the one thing they do have is focus, and a respectable ambition to adapt their skills to the basic needs of humanity. I mean, exactly how many «math-rock» albums could you label as «uplifting»? Probably none, mainly because you'd have a hard time trying to label them as anything (except for «aggressively kick-ass» if the math is steeped in metal).
All the more irony, then, that the band may have exploded just as they'd reached, or came close to reaching, their peak — but perhaps that is what you get as punishment when you begin your record with a musical quote from ʽLet It Beʼ (in fact, we should all be happy that they did not begin it with a musical quote from ʽHighway To Hellʼ instead, or some poor guy would have already be choking upon his vomit). Then again, it is a bit hard to understand where else they could have been headed from here — if this is their Ninth Symphony in a nutshell, there isn't supposed to be a completed Tenth. I only hope this reverential thumbs up will offer at least a little help, so that the memory of Adebisi Shank does not evaporate with the passing of the band itself, under a rather natural scenario for the majority of today's artists.