Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'd Buy Anything By...Adrian Belew

I don't much care for masturbatory guitar virtuosos. You can play really fast, Mr. Van Halen? So? What really matters is the guitarist's ability to integrate with other instruments and -- in the case of Adrian Belew -- go completely off into left field, then come back still grinning a nerdy grin.

He has worked with everybody -- Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, King Crimson -- but he's also had a fun (but slightly spotty) solo career. He's an accomplished drummer and pianist, often playing most (if not all) his own instruments. He has a beautifully quirky personality that encompasses both joy and tragedy...though usually joy.

He's achieved massive critical and niche success, yes. But actual fame? Ironically, the closest he came to being a rock star was with a goofy pop song about how he'd been UNABLE to achieve stardom, despite working his butt off. A duet with his daughter, it illustrates Belew's "cute" side.

After the Belew-fronted incarnation of King Crimson toured with Tool they came back with a new sound (and album) that is decidedly NOT cute. Here's the meta-song, "Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With."

Albums to buy? Definitely Mr. Music Head (one of my favourite albums, BRILLIANT songwriting if can get past the aforementioned "Oh Daddy") and any one of his recent "side" albums (why not start with "Side One?") Avoid "Young Lions," his post-Music Head stab at stardom that today sounds too cheesy even for Belew. For fans only: Guitar as Orchestra. Sure he can make his guitar sound like an orchestra, but that doesn't mean he should.


SmemanUfo said...

Thanks for the post Muffy.. I am down in Florida on business and noticed that he is playing next week in West Palm Beach. I now have my ticketsand something to do.

Thanks again

Eli said...

I've always loved his guitar playing... he definitely falls into the category of guitarist as maker of strange noises. I usually tend to come at guitar playing from the melodic side, but Belew's a great inspiration to be more adventurous.

(I still have to post a list of my favorite weird guitar noise moments.)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Very cool, Smemanufo! I'm sure he's a blast to see and I wish he'd tour in my area.

I expect a complete report! :)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I'm anxiously awaiting the list of favourite weird guitar noise moments...I'm sure Belew can supply a few cricket chirps, lion roars, and elephant blasts.

I was listening to him today, trying to pin down his "style." It seems to be jaunty, but quick to slip into ominous staccato or slightly out of tune.