Review Summary: A record that should be considered as two separate entities - the first half is a very listener-friendly collection of catchy tunes, and the remaining tracks are rather experimental. Extensive usage of the whammy pedal and killswitch throughout.
This was originally a tour-only, but the demand for this album was so high that it ended up being made available to the public; other tour-only records followed suit rather quickly. That fact is easily justified – this is, by far, Buckethead’s best ‘mainstream’ outing till now, and even I, the ‘Big B mainstream outing hater’ tend to get a crack out of listening to the first six tracks, and that’s definitely saying something! The songs on here have a certain spark, they seem to have been really fun for Big B, who put a lot of heart and thought into them. The remaining cuts are a different story, though... but they also have some worthy elements.
Without further ado, on to the music itself. The first six songs are commonly considered to be perfection among Bucketbots, and I do not question that statement. The tracks are well thought-out, witty, melodic, heartfelt, just the perfect listening experience when one does not feel like dipping too deep into the murky lands of experimentation explored by Big B on his previous releases. One gets pretty much everything served up here on a platter with cutlery right next to it: there is the ‘royal’-sounding godson of “Nottingham Lace” by the name of “King James” with some really beautiful breakdowns; “Hook and Pole Gang” revisited with a superb funky solo, rechristened as “Gory Head Stump 2006 – Pageant of Slunks”; the too-emotional-to-be-real “Fairy and the Devil”, which always makes my eyes glaze a little; the one-of-a-kind-until-March-2007 “Ballad of Buddy Berkman”, a tidbit setting the riff and structure pattern for Buckethead’s next album; weirdness with its hair groomed and nails cut on “Mad Monster Party” – a rather psychotic combination, and the outcome is one of the eeriest songs I’ve ever heard; plus the recent tour fave “Soothsayer”, slightly restrained on record, but still very impressive. A nice batch of six songs showcasing what the man is capable of, probably the best starting place for pending Bucketbots, and the leading conversion sampler where I live – the greatness of these pieces is definitely unquestionable. Even though there are merely two true solos in there, these tracks remain melodic – a real achievement, judging by Pepper’s Ghost...
The following songs should be viewed as a separate entity, since they’re a different cup of tea. The words that would describe these novelties best would be: Death Cube K doing his best to play something Bucketheadish. Even though these tracks do have some riffs similar to the ones present on the first half of this disc, they are generally estranged by the community. However, I do enjoy the experimentation, even if it is the most ‘mainstream’ experimentation I ever heard... how come bootlegs with similarly freaky guitar noises are circulated and loved, when these tidbits are ignored? Never mind... Anyway, Buckethead brought a different level to the game here, since he never used the whammy and killswitch on record like this before. The outcome is quite disturbing – one can really feel the slunks marching when an uber-whammy-dropped guitar pounds away a regular rhythm of hundreds of thousands of little feet, and the realistic high-pitched wailing, let alone all the other sound effects, in “Mecha Gigan” has me visualizing a story to go along with the music. The songs tend to be creepy at times (“Col. Austin vs. Col. Sanders”, about 2:30 in... *shudders at the memory*), plus there is some nice dissonance (a short bit about a minute into “Electronic Slight of Hand”), but not nearly as original or significant as the stuff he did on Island of Lost Minds. These songs are not bad, but they pave the way for the lackluster weirdness of Pepper’s Ghost since they seem to be mostly filler.
Buckethead’s guitar effects are very prominent here. Some dubbed this record as ‘the album of the whammy’, and I couldn’t agree more. The effect is almost everywhere, and its presence can be felt, both when it helps create something melodic (“King James”) or conjure insanity (“Mecha Gigan”). Another effect biggie on this album is the killswitch, since it’s used rather extensively. This wraps up the tour phase preceding it perfectly, since Big B used the two devices live to great extent.
All in all, this is Buckethead’s best ‘mainstream’ offering to see the daylight, and it’s bound to remain a fan fave for years to come. The six opening tracks are really breathtaking, and they offer the results of the vast majority of Big B’s music voyages for all to see. The songs are melodic, and they feature two truly superb guitar solos. The rest of the album is more experimental and weird, setting the path for the lame almost-freakiness of the last few cuts of Pepper’s Ghost, and should be viewed as a separate entity for better results and more listening pleasure. The killswitch and whammy are used plentifully, and they help the songs develop whatever mood they are conjuring. This is a great starting place for pending fans and peaceful recline for all those into the man already. Great record.