So I’m sitting down to write this review, and I’m kind of unsure where to start, so I bust out the liner notes and note that Jason McMaster is the lead singer. And I’m like, Hmmm, Jason McMaster, that name rings a bell. So a Bing search later and I realize Oh, he’s the lead singer of Dangerous Toys (whose debut album is phenomenal). Also I notice that Marty Friedman, guitar legend from Megadeth’s best years, is involved in the project, though not, it seems, a permanent member of the band.
And the combination of that level of talent plus just WTF am I listening to is a great summary of this album. I mean, there’s all that, and then the copyright is just attributed to guitarist Ron Jarzombek, not a record label or even a publishing company. Spastic Ink is an appropriate moniker, and the cover art, which to me looks like an ink cartridge jizzing all over a circuit board, also seems appropriate. This is an explosion of talent put down on tape in a completely unrestrained way. It’s like these virtuosi were just given free rein to be as technical as they wanted to be, but then, along the lines of, like Steve Vai, they forgot to make their songs accessible at all.
Although, whereas Steve Vai is mostly overwrought ego, these guys are overdone silliness. This came out in 2004, but it feels like 1994 in its technological references (the first sound you hear on the record is a modem dialing in on an analog line). There are weird, anachronistic spoken word parts of people reading technical specifications as if the acronyms were words, getting angry at technology, and shopping for a word processor. The vocals in “A Chaotic Realization Of Nothing Yet Misunderstood” (it’s ACRONYM) are a woman whispering the full versions of popular Internet abbreviations (e.g., FYI, OTOH, IIRC). “Multi-Masking,” when it’s not highlighting Les Claypool-esque bass, features backwards vocals that, well, I don’t even want to know what they’re saying.
This album is an impressive technical feat. Not even just as a display of virtuosity, but compositionally, too. But only if you’re totally in the right mood, which I think is totally hopped up on cocaine. I’ve never done cocaine, but when I’m in the mood where I think it might be like that, I can really concentrate on all the hyperactivity, stop/start-ness, and tempo changes, and geek out to it. And I kinda like my music extreme, but this is just a bit too much. It’s like over earnest in its delivery and then, like in a self-conscious way, it dollops on a whole ton of silliness. It’s just a lot to take in.
Like: “Aquanet,” “Just A Little Bit,” “Read Me”
Meh: “Multi-Masking,” “In Memory Of…,” “The Cereal Mouse,” “A Quick Affix”
Dislike: “Words For Nerds,” “Melissa’s Friend,” “A Chaotic Realization Of Nothing Yet Misunderstood”
Filed Between: I don’t know, I still haven’t unpacked my CDs. It might be right before Rick Springfield and right after like Soul Coughing.
Song Notes: After the jump
- Aquanet – a bit much (as is kind of everything here), but once you settle in it’s pretty good. without the operator stuff it might be Really Like
- Just A Little Bit –
- Words For Nerds – starts with a guy reading tech specs and then saying “oh, it’s a computer” and oh boy. And near the end there’s a different guy turning things like DOS into sexual innuendi. i love this intermittently, but it still gets Dislike
- Melissa’s Friend – now we have somebody with a drawl complaining that he has to reformat his hard drive
- Read Me
- Multi-Masking – Primus-y at 3:15. Backward speech for first 90 seconds. Close to like but the verses are a bit unimaginative vocally.
- In Memory Of … – the picked guit at start is like Rush’s 2112. “in memory of a life all alone”
- A Chaotic Realization Of Nothing Yet Misunderstood – it stands for ACRONYM. whispers of function phrases are really disturbing
- The Cereal Mouse – just 81 seconds
- A Quick Affix – “hidden” track. relentlessly fast and technical with crazy speed-up/slow-down rhythms. Odd that they’d want another final track after “The Cereal Mouse” is kind of out of place anyway, but here you go.