Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Alain Johannes - Spark (2010)

One of the newly minted releases from the collaborative efforts of artist-driven labels Ipecac Recordings and Rekords Rekords ("Starting A Revolution Against Shitty Rock!"), October 5th marked the day that Alain Johannes stopping being a sideman. Previously a founding member of Eleven with his late partner Natasha Shneider, from whom this album draws all of its real energy, as well as a member of Queens of the Stone Age, Chris Cornell's backing band and recently, anyone who's caught a Them Crooked Vultures show will recognize Alain as the fourth vulture -- yes, the guy not named Josh Homme who can also fucking shred. Initially intended as a limited distribution release a.k.a to his friends, Homme persuaded him to show his work to the world, and praise be to the Ginger Elvis for that.

The album is pretty raw and confessional, and unlike other bands who write on the verge of ambiguity and allude to various general topics such as pain, happiness, confusion, sorrow, loss, beauty, etc., this is pretty real and startling because of it. I mean, if you listen to this record, all 29 minutes of it, and don't find yourself considerably moved, I honestly don't know what to tell you. Actually, I do. But I'll leave it to you to imagine what verbal cruelty I've spared you from. As the cover shows, Alain plies his trade on a cigar box guitar, which he uses to employ a variety of guitar stylings, most often in complex harmonies. "Endless Eyes" is probably the most direct in regards to his late partner and features intense guitar playing and such lyrics as, "It's killing me that I must go on living." Tell me you don't want to buy this guy a beer. Also, lest I forgot, this guy can sing really well. If anyone's heard "Making A Cross" from the Desert Sessions, that is indeed him singing both verses, one in a fairly high register, one in a low register. Impressive eh? "Gentle Ghosts" is just sick. Due to my own guitar shortcomings, I find it difficult to imagine playing some of the lines on this one. "Make God Jealous" is equally awesome, a showcase of Alain's prodigious talent with the stringed instrument. "Spider" is Natasha's nickname and features some oddly phrased guitar lines. All in all, a very short listen, but very sad, very beautiful and very powerful. This is what happens when you play all the instruments and produce it and you aren't a megalomaniac. Trust me, it's so fucking good. B+

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