Marc Ribot calls Ceramic Dog (Ribot, Shahzad Ismaily, Ches Smith) his first rock band since high school. Those familiar with his catalog might be surprised by that, since many of his albums have rocked pretty hard. True enough, there are more songs with words and the power trio format emphasizes the rock aspect, but Party Intellectuals is no less wide-ranging than albums like Rootless Cosmopolitans or Requiem for What's His Name. They bust out of the gate with a punked-up version of "Break on Through," then move into a weird video game-funk anthem with a "Gypsy Queen" coda and on to a goofy faux Brazilian boom-lounge track with hilariously painful rhymes and a too-brief Ernie Isley "Who's that Lady?" solo. "When We Were Young and We Were Freaks" is an atmospheric yet skronky sprechstimme epic with great production and squelchy electronics, while "Digital Handshake" is a wicked Krautrocker with a totally demented breakdown in the middle. "Bateau" is spooky and haunting with ghostly banjo wafting in and out before one of the harshest guitar tones known to man kicks in at the end. "ShSh ShSh" is another moody one with weird disembodied voices drifting in and out. "Never Better" races through several styles of music; imagine Naked City as a Marc Ribot-led power trio and you're in the neighborhood. Shahzad Ismaily and Ches Smith are able to give Ribot just what the songs need whether it's hazy atmospherics or ferocious rocking and have no problem heading down whichever musical path Ribot chooses. And it should go without saying that there's plenty of great guitar playing on hand. "Midost" is another chance to stretch things out and features some massive fuzz bass, while "Girlfriend" humorously details a somewhat less than idyllic relationship with a really bent keyboard tone and nice Middle Eastern percussion break in the middle. Although Ribot has always displayed a great sense of humor, it's on full display here in a way it hasn't really been before. Party Intellectuals is easily Ribot's most fun album to date and one of his best.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard