Chris Chaney

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

REVIEW: Methods of Mayhem – Methods of Mayhem (1999)

METHODS OF MAYHEM_0002METHODS OF MAYHEM – Methods of Mayhem (1999 Universal)

Tommy Lee’s vision was to marry guitar riffs to sick beats, and he quit Motley Crue in order to do it.  As his first album outside of the band he helped make famous, Lee enlisted many guest performers and producers: Kitchener Ontario’s own Scott Humphrey at the console, with Mixmaster Mike (Beastie Boys), George Clinton, Kid Rock, The Crystal Method, U-God (Wu-Tang Clan), Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg, Fred Durst, Phil X (Bon Jovi), Chris Chaney, and even Randy Jackson on bass.  Tommy also teamed up with a guy named TiLo and called him the other half of Methods of Mayhem.

Guest appearances like these don’t do much for me.  Methods of Mayhem must stand or fall on its songs.  Sick beats are one thing, but in my world you need songs too.  Could Tommy Lee and Scott Humphrey deliver?  Fresh out of jail with new ideas, Tommy set to work.

Tommy was clearly relishing the chance to act all gangsta after his much-publicized arrest and incarceration for assault.  The album opens with a recording from L.A. County Jail, and Tommy Lee trying to make a collect phone call.  Then the heavy riff of “Who the Hell Cares” crashes.  It’s extremely reminiscent of the kind of guitar riffs that Motley Crue were writing for their 1994 self-titled magnum opus.  I like Snoop Dogg’s trademark smoove style on it.  To me it’s not about the rapping, but the snaky and stomping guitars. In honestly, “Who the Hell Cares” sounds more like Motley Crue than a lot of New Tattoo!  This melds straight into “Hypocritical” which has a similar “Motley Rap” sound.  “Anger Management” (an obvious reference to Tommy’s personal issues) has yet another one of those heavy Motley riffs, making me question just how much Tommy wrote on that 1994 album.  Quite a bit, I’ll wager.  As much as I wanted to hate the album, I can’t.

The single “Get Naked” (with Clinton, Durst, Mixmaster Mike and Lil’ Kim) is really annoying.  Tommy references his porno tape, whoop de do.  This song sucks, especially lyrically.   Thankfully “New Thing” with Kid Rock is better, even though Kid uses the guest appearance to boast that he’s gone “five times platinum”.  Musically the song sounds like one of the ballads on Generation Swine…but marginally better.

“Proposition Fuck You” makes me laugh, but I’m easily amused.  This one is just straight rap, no rock. Cool techno hooks on “Crash” helps the song work its way into the skull.  I get the impression that this kind of song is where Motley Crue were trying to go on the aforementioned Generation Swine, but for some reason this is much better.  Same with “Metamorphosis” which sounds like, but surpasses most tunes on Generation Swine!

Milking his jail time once again, “Narcotic” opens with a phone recording with information about parolee’s upcoming drug tests…and then the sound of a joint burning.  It’s a tiring cliche.  “Forget about rehab! Gimme another one! The justice of my ass!”  These are some of the lyrics.  “Mr. Onsomeothershits” (ugh, come on) and “Spun” end the album on a so-so note.  Lots of beats and sounds, not a lot of songwriting.

It’s a rollercoaster affair, Methods of Mayhem.  It’s much better than you’d expect, but when it sucks, it sucks!

MOM ICONThe CD is enhanced, with screensavers, music videos, and a brief thing called “Making of Mayhem” which sheds little light on the actual creative process.  It’s no more than just a collage of people posing for the camera in the studio, unfortunately.  You will learn nothing about the making of the Methods of Mayhem album by watching the “Making of Mayhem” featurette.  Don’t you hate stuff like that?

3/5 stars