Side Three

Adrian Belew

“Expect the Expected” seems to be the motto these days in the music industry. It seems that the once-wonderful art of music has fell prey to the dollar. There is now a sort of manufacturing act being seen with the likes of American Idol and pop bands. When I saw Side Three, the new Adrian Belew CD, I didn’t really think much of it. Most CDs with colorful covers tend to have music not following suit. But as the first track emanated through my speakers, I was happily scratching my head with confusion.

“Troubles” has a very hip-hop vibe to it, which is such a joy from a punk/alternative CD. Belew seems to be talking and rapping with a sound similar to that of a speech from the 50s or 60s by an African-American. The constant hip-hop induced beat works well throughout and when the guitar comes in, it makes for a very different and interesting sound to entertain the eardrums. “Incompetence Difference” is a faster song with the drums working as the catalyst, the guitar adding personality, Belew turning an intriguing variation of vocals. “Water Turns to Wine” takes a more subtle approach, allowing the listener to indulge in the instrumentation while the vocals come in at short bursts.

The next four tracks offer a more experimental edge. Belew could have easily just carried on in a more mainstream fashion, but instead shows us more from his bag of tricks. “Cinemusic” is a nice example, offering a kind of alien-meets-baby-in-pram sound, if you know what that sounds like. It seemed that this would be one of those CDs that can be enjoyed throughout without any real stand-outs, but then came “Men in Helicopters V4.0,” a tune that takes my mind back to the classic song-making of the 60s and 70s. It has a very Beatlesque sound, but the lyrics are powerful enough to differentiate it from any comparison. The violin attacks you from the first second and then descends into a smooth melody that perfectly accompanies Belew’s steady and strong vocals. The marching drums add to the anthem-like nature of the song, but it is the lyrics that ultimately steal the show. Belew talks of the beauty of the African plains being over-hauled by wars, other species being killed by our race just for profits and fame, and the mess to a world we should be responsible for. But it’s the six words that Adrian Belew utters as the chorus that stamps the song with master-piece status: “The legacy/we are leaving behind.”

“Beat Box Car” maintains a rapid tempo being sustained by the drums, while “Truth Is” shows the slower side with an alternative edge to it. “&“ concludes the CD on a high note, with booming drums and some swift guitar work dominating, sounding like a musical party. It ends with tribal-like percussion accompanied by a bass line that drifts in and out. Side Three is a big hurrah for Adrian Belew, delivering a brand of excellence that needs to be recognized and acknowledged.

~ Have Hope

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