Search This Blog

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Adrian Belew: Dust


1) Intro To Something; 2) What Do You Know; 3) Happy Guy; 4) One Time (demo); 5) Hawaiian Cowboys; 6) Big Blue Sun (remix); 7) Pygmies; 8) Neptune Pool; 9) Shoe Salesman; 10) Superboy; 11) Collage For "Girl With Clouds"; 12) Still Life With Dobro (reduction); 13) Neurotica; 14) Duck Funk Symphony; 15) Antarctica; 16) P-Type; 17) Postcard From Holland (demo); 18) Peas.

Since this album was only released on Adrian's home label (you can order it from his own web­site, and the good man only charges you an extra five for an autograph!), and since it consists of nothing but outtakes, demos, and musical jokes from his entire solo career and was never special­ly promoted or advertised in any way, nobody except for the most hardcore followers seems to even have heard about this collection. But it does exist, and apparently, it is just a sampler of various goodies accumulated over the years that the man is gradually making available and, sometimes, heartily discussing and nostalgizing over in his «Elephant Blog».

As we all know, Adrian is a fun guy, and this is a fun collection. As its title suggests, it is rather messy and trashy, and it is almost inevitable that some of the stuff here is really rubbish — for instance, ʽCollage For ʽGirl With Cloudsʼʼ is precisely that, a sonic collage that had been used as the psychedelic background for ʽGirl With Cloudsʼ off The Bears' Rise And Shine album, where it merely constitutes a randomized layer for an upbeat pop song. On its own, it makes no sense whatsoever; worse, it does not even make nonsense. But perhaps you spent twenty-five years of your life wondering what exactly was buried under those guitars and vocals? There, your prayers have been answered.

A few other tracks are demos and raw versions of classic oldies that one might be interested in hearing just once: the piano-and-strings-only version of ʽBig Blue Sunʼ (which does show how much Belew must have been influenced by George Martin's chamber orchestrations), the guitar-and-background-vocals-only version of ʽPostcard From Hollandʼ, the shorter alternate take on King Crimson's ʽOne Timeʼ, etc. But these are not the tracks for which you'd want to own this «dusty» little package, no sir.

The real meat is in the previously unheard compositions — all of which work as a cool testament to the diversity, professionalism, and good humor of the guy. ʽHappy Guyʼ is a wonderful little ska instrumental that reads like a musically sophisticated variation on the theme of ʽOb-La-Di Ob-La-Daʼ. ʽHawaiian Cowboysʼ is an electronic percussion-heavy hula with soft, pacifying gui­tar work nicely contrasting with the frenetic beats (though I did not notice anything particularly cowboyish about it). ʽPygmiesʼ uses deep bass lines and a whole load of atonal brass overdubs and various sound effects to recreate that hot jungle atmosphere. ʽStill Life With Dobroʼ is just Adrian dicking around with said instrument for five minutes, but doing it in a whole variety of styles, from boogie to folk to classical. And the title ʽDuck Funk Symphonyʼ should probably speak for itself: unlike so many avantgarde musicians, Belew likes his titles to correlate to a cer­tain degree with the musical content, so be prepared for (crazy) funky rhythmics and treated guitar tones that do sound very much like ducks. Ducks straight outta hell, that is!

There are some decent vocal numbers here as well, though not many: ʽShoe Salesmanʼ is a cle­ver­ly worded two-minute tragic love song ("My baby's in love with a shoe salesman / No, I don't fit her anymore", har har); ʽSuperboyʼ is a rambunctious power-pop number that would have fit in well on any of Adrian's classic pop albums; and ʽPeasʼ is, apparently, a very early track from the dawn of Adrian's career — a culinary vaudeville spoof with the man professing his love for Pisum sativum ("I love you so much, I could eat you all day") in several different voices. Sounds more like proto-Ween, really, than genuine Adrian Belew, but the man's got many faces, and this is why we love him so much.

Anyway, as far as odds-and-ends collections go, Dust is a keeper and deserves its thumbs up, even if I strongly suspect that it could have been even better — there's enough musical and lyrical ideas here to suggest that Adrian might have enough in his vaults to make for a «great lost... some­thing», if only he hadn't been busy eating peas all day. And while it might not be a perfect compensation for the odd lack of new artistic activity from Belew over most of the 2010s, it is at least satisfactory to know that the man is taking good care of his own legacy.

No comments:

Post a Comment