Kim Salmon & the Surrealists

Grand Unifying Theory

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The peripatetic Kim Salmon always seems happiest when he's doing a lot of things at once, so perhaps little surprise that nearly 30 years after the Scientists first came into being he's returned to another musical incarnation of his, reactivating the Kim Salmon & the Surrealists moniker for the first album under that group name in about 13 years and recruiting a new band to work under the name. Grand Unifying Theory makes for a good title as a result, though -- if it's more focused on the sharply brawling side of his work than some of the quieter recent efforts, this is still an album that showcases tense moments and arrangements throughout, almost a '70s cop movie soundtrack looking for a screenplay. His low-voiced growl on "Order of Things," over a backing of crisp cymbal hits and deep bass, and the strutting funk kick of "Predate" show that he knows well how to play it relatively cool. Elsewhere, he and the band give in to full ranting explosions ("RQ1," with a mean-as-hell bass start and Salmon only interjecting occasional "yeah!" and "all right!" moments), while "Kneel Down at the Altar of Pop" really doesn't sound like a conversion that was accepted willingly. Meanwhile, the two-part title track is almost its own self-contained effort, the two-minute opener of random jam noise and scuzz leading into a 20-minute monster that begins with acid fuzz zone-out before the rhythm section sets down a biting, nervous pace. Over this Salmon lays down a slow burn of a guitar showcase. Sometimes it's angry squalling that shows his abilities have hardly calmed down with age; other times it's a distant, near inaudible buzz floating in the back of the mix, waiting to burst out again as the band continues its improvisation.

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