While Adrian Shaw is known primarily as a sideman, playing bass with the likes of Arthur Brown, Hawkwind, and the Bevis Frond, since the early '90s he's also been releasing psychedelically oriented solo records that vouch for his talents as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Counting the 1990 Aerial Dance cassette, Look Out is Shaw's fifth album and it's his most accomplished and eclectic to date. Shaw enlists the aid of familiar collaborators: guitarists Nick Saloman (Bevis Frond), Bari Watts (Outskirts of Infinity), Tony Hill (High Tide), and son Aaron. This time, however, they contribute to only two tracks; Shaw performs the remaining songs entirely solo, playing guitar, organ, banjo, bass, synth, piano, mandolin, harmonica, and percussion. Just as this is a more individual venture in practical terms, it also has a more personal, introspective feel than Shaw's previous albums. Compared with Head Cleaner (1999), Look Out is quite melancholy, its songs focused on death, decline, and the transience of existence. The darker mood resonates in the music itself: most notably on the somber early-Floydian "Remembrance of Things Past"; on "Father's Day" (where Bari Watts adds a poignant guitar solo); and on "The Chosen," with its brooding retro organ groove. More upbeat is "Rhododendron Mile," on which a summery, country-style arrangement accompanies Shaw's bittersweet memories of the late '60s (and his time with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown). Although Shaw has spent his career exploring the realm of psychedelia, his work is far from anachronistic; he continues to develop new possibilities for the genre in a contemporary context. For instance, on "Few Are Called," Shaw experiments with sampling to create an unusual, surreal soundscape. This release from one of British psychedelia's most enduring figures asserts that while the genre might not be fashionable, it's alive and well and living in Walthamstow.
Look Out Review
by Wilson Neate