CD Reviews: New Music from Buckethead

Written by CD Reviews, Music

Resident Buckethead expert Dave Steed, takes a look at the four most recent releases from Buckethead – Best Regards, Captain EO’s Voyage, Spinal Clock and Brain as Hamenoodle.

Having listened to all his albums and completed a Popdose guide on the man, I guess that makes me the resident Buckethead expert so it only makes sense that I tackle his 2010 output.

There was a little break at the beginning of the year because Buckethead had a painful spinal condition that holed him up for a little while. That helped me take a little break from the guy and renew my interest.  And not a moment too soon as he’s feeling better and releasing music at a frantic pace again.

The early part of 2010 saw the release of a solo record, Shadows Between the Sky and then his next release wasn’t until mid-July when he released a five-disc set with Brain and a new collaborator named Melissa Reese, called Best Regards. I took a look at both of these albums in my Popdose Guide. Since September he’s released four new sets so I figured I might as well review them all together.

The weirdest thing I experienced with these four albums is the least anticipated is the one that’s the most interesting. I haven’t been a huge fan of his “noodlings” with Travis Dickerson in the past so when I saw another “noodle” album I wasn’t really looking forward to it. But this one is with Brain instead. Brain as Hamenoodle by Buckethead and Brain consists of longtime collaborator Brain on drums and Buckethead playing nothing the bass this time around. The results are six free flowing rock jams led by some really wild drumming and a space bass that Buckethead must have learned from Bootsy Collins. “Sunflower Seed” is a funky one that has a hip-hop vibe to it while “One To Five” is a groovy moderately paced track centered around the sultry groove of the bucketman. Even with the tracks averaging in the seven minute range, there’s a good flow from start to finish.

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The most intriguing disc was Spinal Clock released back in September, because it was his first album played with a banjitar. The banjitar, ganjo or guitar banjo is a six string banjo with a guitar neck. It’s played like a guitar but the effect is the sound of a banjo.  Before the release it was being hyped as an acoustic disc which it isn’t at all. What it ends up being is the most experimental of his four new sets – a strange avantgarde trip through nine songs of seemingly random notes and banging against the body for percussion sounds. Most of the time Buckethead is barely playing at all and when he does it’s a crazy freakout which often sounds pretty annoying on the banjo. Buckethead had the opportunity to do so much more with this but choose to go the odd route. It isn’t the first time and won’t be the last but it’s still a little disappointing.

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Then there’s his next solo record titled Captain EO’s Voyage. Completed with Dan Monti on bass and drum programming this isn’t the first time Buckethead has referenced Michael Jackson in his music. But even so, Captain EO came out in 1986 so he’s a little behind the times here. But in reality these are instrumentals as usual, so they could be called pretty much anything as I can’t see any direct connection with the gloved one.

The thing about Buckethead’s albums is sometimes they are good simply because they aren’t bad. He’s released so many unlistenable experimental tracks that when you get a record that’s accessible from start to finish it seems better than it really is. And that’s exactly what Captain EO’s Voyage  is like. From start to finish this is very straight forward and entertaining but then if you really listen to it, it’s kind of dull by Buckethead standards. There’s nothing wrong with any of the songs but there’s nothing that makes even one stand out. It’s standard rock songs without much flair. Totally worth the time to listen to but don’t expect anything spectacular. For that you really want to listen to Kind Regards.

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Kind Regards is the second of three sets from Buckethead, Brain and Melissa Reese, with both Brain and Reese playing keyboards and percussion.  Best Regards was the first set back in July, consisting of five discs of decent rock material, some avantgarde stuff but mostly very listenable.  Kind Regards is a three disc package featuring the most exciting music he’s released since 2004’s Population Override.  For all intents and purposes disc 1 is a funk set, disc 2 is experimental and disc 3 is a rock album. A song like “Pop Chip” tossing a little drum & bass in the mix and there are certainly some wild experiments especially once you get to the second disc which is a six part track called “Gonervill” but overall it’s pretty impossible to not feel the energy on these albums and realize that Buckethead and Melissa Reese work great together.  It certainly makes me want to listen to the third part whenever it comes out and however many discs it may be.  That can’t be too far down the line, so it won’t be that long of a wait I’m sure.

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