Forever Einstein

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Charles O'Meara (formerly C.W. Vrtacek), lead guitarist and founder of the Forever Einstein trio, has carved out a strange little niche for himself over the past 20 years or so. Not just a rock, surf, folk, jazz or experimental guitarist, O'Meara is, instead, a bit of each. He doesn't blow the listener away with his power chords and/or dazzling fretwork (although he may well have the capability); he surprises and delights with his juxtapositions. He and bass/rhythm guitarist Kevin Gerety are also masters of the effects pedal, so the various stylistic jumps within songs are enhanced by changes from tremolo to fuzz, or wah-wah to reverb, and so on. An uncharitable critique of O'Meara's (and Forever Einstein's) music might utilize words like pastiche -- and that would be partially correct. Virtually everything that Forever Einstein plays sounds a little like something you've heard before -- a theme from a spaghetti western or an old action-adventure television series, an intro to a classic rock tune, a novelty instrumental hit from your high school days, a snippet of an old folk melody. However, O'Meara assembles his musical vignettes with a great deal of care, so that the effect is not one of incompatible pieces stuck together, but rather, intuitively blended musical motifs and sampled sounds where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The 12 pieces in the program are all blessed with O'Meara's typically whimsical titles and they all wander from theme to theme, with repeats, reprises and ghost melodies providing continuity. Arguably, no one piece is any more representative than another, but by way of illustration, number ten in the program ("There's Some Milk in the Fridge That's About to Go Bad...And There It Goes") starts with a Latin riff that borrows chords from the old warhorse "Tequila," then moves to some hardcore (almost punk) single-chord riffing from O'Meara and fierce thrashing from drummer John Roulat, which is displaced in turn by clean, languid strumming from O'Meara, mellow wah-wah groans from Gerety's bass and an overdub of O'Meara's bluesy, biting upper-register solo. The "Tequila" riff returns, but quickly morphs into a slow dream/nightmare sequence with fuzz bass, crystalline guitar tones and a sampled coyote chorus, which finally terminates with a brief bit of vocal sounds from a party or bar (?). I dunno what it all means, but after a few listens this and the other 11 selections on the CD begin to resemble musical short stories with intriguing but inscrutable narratives. O'Meara's guitars are featured throughout the CD, but the contributions of Gerety and Roulat shouldn't be underestimated, as they serve to keep the music grounded and real. The end result, paradoxically, is experimental blue-collar, no-frills instrumental rock.

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