Alex Machacek

City Hall, 2006


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Sometimes, journalists will use the phrase [sic] to indicate that bad grammar in a story is a fault of the person saying it, not the writer him or herself. Example: "We done did [sic] good out there today, boss," said Detroit Lions wide receiver Benjamin "Hands" Ray, moments before he was pummeled with foam footballs thrown by Green Bay Packers fans and English teachers.

It's possible that Alex Machacek chose this word for the title of his CD because no matter what anyone says about it, it will be wrong and the reviewer or listener will eat his or her words. The Austrian import plays guitar, but that's the only thing we can all agree on here; the minute one concludes this CD is fusion, or jazz, or progressive rock, it changes.

Machacek doesn't write songs as much as bursts of noise, which start at one place and end at another, with God knows what happening in the middle. There are few choruses, only one vocal cut, no unifying themes and a plethora of head-scratching moments. Naturally, fellow musicians will love this disc, but average listeners might be a bit put off by Machacek's apparent lack of cohesion or purpose.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That's not to say he's not talented. The kid can play and he's amazing, recalling Frank Zappa and middle-period Robert Fripp in one spot, Steve Vai and Satriani the next. Machacek is not flashy, though, nor is he inclined to write songs with commercial potential. He's a true guitar geek, not only exploring the scales but exploiting them, winding his way up and down the fretboard in a scientifically random sense.

Because of that, reviewing Machacek is difficult. What unfolds before one's ears is clearly genius, and if I had to categorize it for people I'd call it acid jazz [sic]. It's got jazz beats, insistent and technical drumming (courtesy of Terry Bozzio) and tons of guitar solos, but rarely does it sound serious, almost as if Machacek is discovering what the guitar can do set to various jazz beats, and we're along for the ride. The humor is evident on the title track, which is five minutes of noodling interspersed with random full-band moments and a running commentary, wherein a narrator says something after every few bars of Machacek's solo such as "That was good" or "Welcome to America."

I'm inclined to compare this to Zappa, not only because of Bozzio's presence but because of the way in which Machacek is able to go all over the place, seemingly with no reason or purpose, yet retain a sense of completeness in each song. An off-kilter beat will give way to some electronic guitar shredding, as on "Austin Powers," which then suddenly goes into a slow electric phase and a Miles Davis-like backbeat. But the randomness never feels forced; you don't know what's coming next, but it sounds right.

Which is probably the best way to sum this disc up. No matter how many times you hear it, you never know what's coming next, and one gets the sense Machacek doesn't either. This is definitely the oddest disc you will hear this year, but fans of progressive jazz/rock and guitar virtuosos will get the biggest kick out of this. It's easy to admire for its originality and uncompromising nature, but hard to love, making one wonder how high Machacek could soar if he put his talents into something a little more focused.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of City Hall, and is used for informational purposes only.