If you listen to some of the records David Pajo (aka Papa M) has appeared on, you might mistake Live From a Shark's Cage for someone else. After Slint, Tortoise, and a stint with Royal Trux, one might consider Pajo a guitar player known for his sharp, fuzzy, abrasive tone. This assumption would quickly be proven wrong. Live From a Sharks Cage is for the most part a subtle, slowly constructed work that comes to fruition in the same way hypnotist subdues a patient with the swinging of a clock. The album is book ended by the song "Arundel." Its first incarnation is a one-minute tease -- a solo guitar piece that evokes country and folk with an distorted echo guitar. "Arundel" melts into "Roadrunner," where programmed drums undercut a clear guitar riff. The moods of "Shark's Cage" switch often, but with such great care that the transitions between songs are nearly seamless. This album sounds much like a live performance (as its title precariously suggests) that leaves the listener feeling an exploration of emotions; a succession of sounds has come full circle. There are the quiet moments of "Pink Holler" and "Plastic Energy Man" where a lullaby guitar plays gently over electronic rhythms. There is the distorted 4/4 stomp of "Drunken Spree," and the eerie, queer sounding "Crowd of One," where a series of answering machine messages playing over an ambient guitar. The spookiness of "Crowd" heightened by the knowledge that these messages were those left on Pajo's recently deceased grandfathers' machine. "Knocking the Casket" is kind of a bluegrass dirge that further emphasizes the somewhat ominous tone of the album. The backwoods rock of "Up North Kids," the penultimate track, is perhaps the wake after "Casket" with its upbeat, day-at-a-Kentucky-barbeque feel. Finally we return to a longer, haunting version of "Arundel" to close the album that lasts about four minutes, although it could easily go on for another 10 and still be engaging. Live From a Sharks Cage is a musical novel -- its separate parts, the connections between them, and their sum flow perfectly. Shark's Cage shows why David Pajo has been a part of so many influential bands and has continued to be equally as revolutionary in his solo career.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Marc Gilman