Adrian Belew

Side Two

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Not that he wasn't busy for the entire time, but the nearly eight years that separated Adrian Belew's solo studio recordings seem to have really recharged his batteries. Following Op Zop Too Wah, we only got the Salad Days compilation of acoustic material (already previously released in Japan and by mail order) and the odds and ends Coming Attractions compilation, which showcased all the different pies Adrian had his fingers in at the time (the Bears, more acoustic stuff, a still-forthcoming rarities box, etc.); it almost seemed like a holding pattern. Then came Side One, Belew's triumphant return to the type of experimental rock that first turned heads in his direction more than 20 years ago. Maybe it was the time away from his solo career proper; maybe it was hooking up with relative youngsters like Danny Carey and Les Claypool, but Belew seemed positively reinvigorated. That feeling continues with Side Two. No big guest stars on this one; Belew handles just about everything entirely solo. Longtime fans may be a bit surprised by the prevalence of electronic sounds, loops, and synthesized percussion, but Belew has really done a great job of incorporating them into his sound. The lyrics are deliberately sparse (inspired by Haiku), which allows for much more focus on the music and atmosphere. In fact, Belew has pretty much forsaken any "pop" aspirations here and fully pursued his more experimental muse, which will absolutely delight many of his longtime fans (and perhaps alienate the more pop-oriented ones a bit, though nothing here really qualifies as harsh or difficult listening). The album is filled with great sounds and textures, and there is plenty of ferocious guitar playing, as expected. The running time is fairly brief but there are essentially no breaks between songs, so the end of the album is like the end of a wild ride; it was a lot of fun but you're about ready for a break. However, you just might want to heed the whispered advice at the end of the album (trivia buffs take note that it's the same advice that closes Side Two of the James Gang's Yer' Album).

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