REVIEW: Joe Satriani – Shockwave Supernova (2015)

Purchased at BMV for $7.99 during Toronto Record Store Excursion 2016.

scan_20161217JOE SATRIANI – Shockwave Supernova (2015 Sony)

Like a manic version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, the title track from Joe Satriani’s latest Shockwave Supernova will render you mute as you pick your jaw up from the floor.  Syncopated guitars and drums unite before Joe focuses everything on the melody.  Joe’s brand of instrumental rock usually features the lead guitar in a melodic position where a lead singer would normally deliver the hooks.  That’s Joe’s job and he has done it consistently well.

New age-y guitar twinkles highlight the ballad “Lost in a Memory”, which pulses with understated rhythms.  It is only appropriate that this spacey music was recorded at Skywalker Sound.  What atmosphere and what power.  Things take a turn down Weird Street on “Crazy Joey”, a showcase for sounds you didn’t know a guitar could make, but still with a cool melody to remember.  Unbelievable accuracy and dexterity here.  “In My Pocket” brings back Joe’s bluesy harmonica work (often overlooked) with a stripped basic track.  Then we fly “On Peregrine Wings”, but the song itself is heavy as granite.  An unorthodox guitar hook reminds us that Joe isn’t a typical songwriter or player.  Thunder returns on “Cataclysmic” which moves along with the grace of a herd of rhinos.

Joe hops in his Tardis for a trip back in time to the early 60s on “San Francisco Blue”, but of course with his own space age sound.  He just has to “Keep On Movin'”, but it’s still a surprise when the piano shares the spotlight.  There is no shortage of string majesty, but the piano is a nice touch.  Things cool down on “All of My Life”, a gentle song with breezy congas and unexpected twists.  “A Phase I’m Going Through”, track 10, is the point at which the listener begins to get a little bit of ear fatigue.  15 songs might be normal for a Joe album, but 10 songs might be the ideal length for the average listener.

Take a break if you have to because there are still great moments ahead.  “Scarborough Stomp” is an apt title for the snare-heavy 11th track.  It’s all about that uncomplicated beat, but there is a cool baroque section in the middle that sounds as if lifted from Joe’s brief stint in Deep Purple (1994).  A tender ballad (“Butterfly and Zebra”) is a transitional song leading to the ominous backwards guitar intro to “If There is No Heaven”.  This song is reminiscent of past Joe blasters like “One Big Rush”. Then you will see the “Stars Race Across the Sky” on one of Joe’s more atmospheric tracks. A “Goodbye Supernova” sends us off in dramatic fashion with heavy keyboard accents by veteran Mike Keneally.

Very few Satriani albums will let you down.  Though some might argue “if you have one Joe, you have them all”, his fans will appreciate the differences.

3.5/5 stars

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14 comments

  1. I’m glad Satch is still making music. In regards to his solo stuff the last one I bought was for my brother at the time of the Alien record. I prefer a band concept with a vocalist so I salute those who still dig this….
    That was at Xmas time 89 as I bought my brother the Satch cassette/Chris Duarte on cassette and SRV’s In Step along with a paid subscription to Guitar For The Practicing Musician….
    He was 13 at the time and just loving guitar dudes….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well Deke to this day I still think Flying in a Blue Dream is his best album, and that had the most singing on it. That’s not including Chickenfoot which is hard to compare since it’s more Van Halen than Satch.

      Man that would have been a great Christmas in 89. When I still played guitar my folks would usually buy me a magazine and fresh strings.

      Like

  2. Nice write-up, Mike. I was actually tempted to buy this one a few months back, but decided against it as it was a bit pricey and I was still getting into a couple of his other albums (including Unstoppable Momentum). Figured I had plenty Satriani albums to keep me occupied, y’know. Anyhoo, he’s got a tough gig trying to keep his albums interesting and engaging start to finish and I agree that there’s a point that it just becomes back-ground music – 15 tracks is a bit of a challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Look back at the pioneers, the albums like the Jeff Beck I was raving about…short and sweet. Instrumentals are a lot for most people to absorb. I give full kudos for providing dollar value though, so again…it’s a fine line to walk. Value vs. too long a playing time.

      Liked by 1 person

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