Lazy Bones Recordings, 2014
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/08/2014
Personally, I can think of more appropriate names for this album. For example: Playing In The Sandbox, or Music For Music’s Sake, or possibly Who Gives A F**k What You Think, Anyway?
But EEPS it is, and it is all Marco Minnemann all the way—the spectacular drummer whose recent resume includes playing with Steven Wilson, Mike Keneally, Tony Levin & Jordan Rudess, not to mention a host of other world-class musos—and who makes every single noise heard on this album, covering drums, bass, guitars, keys and vocals all by his lonesome.
The result is a sprawling jumble of a CD featuring 18 tracks with titles like “Live Ghost,” “Right On Time And Out Of Tune,” “Dead Ghost,” “Douche,” and of course “Cheap As F**k And Awesome As Hell” (asterisks Marco’s). Most are instrumentals, though a handful feature vocals as well.
If there’s an overall vibe here, it’s free-form experimental of the rascally virtuoso variety, with occasional forays into irreverent prog-fusion. “Cheap As F**k,” for example, feels like Miami Vice-era Jan Hammer and a couple of guys from one of Frank Zappa’s acrobatic live combos stopped by for a jam. “OC DC” is a snarky, shambolic two-minute surf-punk tune about an OCD superfan who can’t manage to leave the house long enough to get to a show. And the first minute of the title track mostly features random power chords interspersed with belches, before evolving into a sort of math-rock jazz-prog jambalaya.
Fair warning: the listener who clings to verse-chorus-verse structure—or, hell, any sort of structure or predictability at all—will be not just disoriented but quite possibly repelled at this point.
If you pass the test presented by the first three tracks, though, some interesting—and more accessible—gambits lie ahead. “Live Ghost” actually has a bit of form and build to its rather spooky fusion vibe. “Soul Dance” brings acoustic guitar into the mix for a funked-up jam wrapped around a melodic candy center. “Obvious” is Minnemann on his best behavior, a surprisingly straightforward pop-rock tune with vocals. Naturally he follows it with the thoroughly chaotic “Right On Time,” whose serial tempo shifts would require a calculator to compute.
“Sushi Cat Doll” is a minor epic, an 11-minute-plus suite with at least four distinct segments. An opening, rather Floydian bit of dreamy space-rock is interrupted by an interlude featuring raw power chords and distorted vocals, a brief nightmare before we fall back into the calmer dream-phase. And then there’s a strangely elastic bit with electric guitar and piano, and another featuring drums, bass pedals, vocoder and random background chatter, and so on… it’s Minnemann the musical mad scientist running loose in the lab, without a dose of Ritalin in sight.
So, of course, the next track “Sunshine” is a snappy, upbeat, rather Matthew Sweet-ish 2:56 power-pop number. That’s just how Marco rolls.
Highlights the rest of the way would have to include the ringing outro to the steady-building “The Split”; the sheer agility of the time-signature jumps in “Dead Ghost”; and the second mini-suite “When I Was Gone,” which builds from ambient Tangerine Dream atmospherics to a rocking vocal mid-section with lyrics out of a horror B-movie. The CD also features a trio of “bonus tracks” of similar diversity, including the cheeky “Talking About LMR,” wherein Minnemann layers distorted spoken-word snippets of an interview about the Levin Minnemann Rudess project over a churning fusion bed. (No, seriously…)
Marco Minnemann is the sort of musical free spirit for whom the adjective “irrepressible” was invented. Fearless, endlessly inventive, and tremendously versatile, Minnemann simply goes where the music takes him, over and over again. This is not an album for the faint of heart—or for those who demand structure and predictability of any kind—but if you’re adventurous and curious enough to want to listen in as a precociously talented multi-instrumentalist lets his imagination run wild in the studio, EEPS offers memorable musical moments aplenty.