Nuno Bettencourt
Schizophonic


4.0
excellent

Review

by egothelivingplanet USER (2 Reviews)
December 23rd, 2008 | 5 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Great solo effort by ex-lead guitarist from Extreme, Nuno Bettencourt. A consistent display of musicianship and sense of melody and rhythm that takes elements from grunge and alternative rock

Schizophonic was released in early 1997 by Nuno Bettencourt, who got to be known for being Extreme’s lead guitarist from the mid eighties until 1996, when that band broke up, and Nuno decided to pursue a solo career. I find this album interesting for many reasons. First of all, it’s important to note that Extreme was a band closer to hair metal in the likes of Van Halen, which makes Schizophonic stand for a radical shift in Bettencourt’s musical universe. It’s impressive to discover the musical direction he was adopting towards the end of Extreme, since it seems he’d been working on Schizophonic for several years. Second of all, I believe this album provides a rather refreshing transition from hair metal, glam rock, trash and heavy stuff from the late 80’s, to alternative rock from the late 90’s. No wonder Bettencourt took inspiration from grungier sounds and adopted a more aesthetical approach to music, in order to accomplish this transition. And third of all, this album really sets forth Bettencourt’s musicianship and vision, since he wrote most of the songs himself and played ALL the instruments in the recording. Of course, regarding the guitar work, nothing less could be expected from a guitarist of Bettencourt’s caliber, but what is really striking is what a talented drummer he is, while also putting out some solid bass lines.

Now let’s concentrate on the music. Throughout the album Bettencourt displays a more than decent singing voice. It doesn’t necessarily excel in versatility, but it covers the different tones that singers usually adopt in the post grunge-alternative rock genre. From the grunge-like radio-voice start of the opener Gravity, reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots’ Dead and Bloated, to the frenetic screaming of the aggressive 2 Weeks in Dizkneelande, grunge vocalists’ influence is pretty clear. In songs such as Confrontation and I Wonder, Bettencourt displays a cleaner voice, in the likes of Silverchair’s Daniel Johns or Fuel’s ex-vocalist Brett Scallions. The lyrics, however, are clearly not Bettencourt’s strong point. I’m not saying the lyrics suck, but, as it is the case with A LOT of alternative rock bands, most of the songs seem to mobilize random imagery and unoriginal phrase construction, vaguely referring to recurring topics such as difficulties with love and women, mother, father, loneliness; and incredibly enough, he even managed to write a song (Confrontation) about Superman, Robin Hood, Jesus and Abraham Lincoln, which otherwise is a good one. Notable exceptions are Crave and 2 Weeks in Dizkneelande, in which the lyrics cleverly manage to evoke something about insanely desiring some girl in the former, and in the latter about being sexually abused by a deranged step-father in a trip to Disneyland. But it ultimately doesn’t make a difference for me since I rarely take interest in the lyrics of an album, as long as the music is good.

And it definitely is the case for Schizophonic. The first two tracks of the album are strong grunge statements, as it is shown by the heavily distorted guitar riffing in Gravity, and Grolhesque drumming in Swollen Princess. Crave is one of the strongest points of the album. After giving it many listens, one will realize that, as I felt it the first time I heard it, it is NOT a Sum 41 cover, but rather a well constructed song that in my opinion shows somehow Pixies inspiration. Bettencourt’s drumming is slowly precise but very…“hard rocking”, as it can be heard during the guitar solo, in which the Brian May influences can clearly be felt. What You Want is, I believe, a song closer to Bettencourt’s past with Extreme, in which a soft chorus is crushed by heavy metal guitar riffs and a great bluesy solo. Then comes Fallen Angels, an interesting experiment by Bettencourt that mixes chill-out electronics and bass with an oriental feel in the chorus, accompanied by funky guitars.

2 Weeks in Dizkneelande is my personal favorite (along with Karmalaa), because of its grunge drums and guitar, along with Bettencourt’s frenetic vocals, you can really feel the craziness taking over. After that, there are the two weakest songs of the album. Pursuit of Happiness, a nice and relaxing (token?) acoustic song that has a country feel to it, but seems too cheesy for me, and doesn’t really manages to take off. Same with Fine by me, while not an acoustic one, it makes me think of Foo Fighters’ weakest efforts. Karmalaa, on the other hand, is really a masterpiece. I find to be really innovative in the way in which the drumbeat and the electric guitar melt together during the verses, and explode in an incredibly catchy chorus. The drum fills and the riff before the funky-electric guitar solo are really impressive. It makes me think of Steve Vai’s Attitude Song. Confrontation is maybe the catchiest song of the album, with its chug-chug-chug clean guitar accompanied by a conventional drum pattern. While the lyrics are totally incoherent and meaningless, it plays the role of the (token?) “rainy day sad song” very well.

The three following songs are slightly weaker than the rest of the album. Bettencourt’s formula gets a bit repetitive, even if the songs are more than average in my opinion. Take Note on the Screen Door for instance, it has great rhythm thanks to that haunting bass line during the verse and the guitar’s atmospheric sounds. But then comes the chorus and the power-chord/melodic-singing thing gets tiring. I Wonder is a soft rocker, with clean atmospheric guitar sounds and a strong vocal effort by Bettencourt. Got To Have You is however an average song. It doesn’t properly suck, but doesn’t bring anything new to the album since one already understood a few songs ago what Bettencourt’s ideas where for Schizophonic, in other words, it’s a filler. The last two songs on the album ARE average songs in comparison to the others. You is a chill-out random love song featuring vocals by Extreme’s ex-singer Gary Cherone. And Severed is a mix of this chill-out style Bettencourt started to explore with Fallen Angels and alternative hard-rocking.

Those last two songs should have been replaced by two Schizophonic b-sides I picked up that are really good: Garbage and especially Hop the Train.

In all, Bettencourt does for most of the album an excellent job, with some weak average moments, but doesn’t really suck in any of them. The guitar work is outstanding in absolutely all the songs, even the average ones. One can perceive Bettencourt’s will to detach himself from blues-rock guitar riffing and soloing that has taken over mainstream rock music. Elements of funk and jazz can be felt in his work. He has an amazing sense of melody and rhythm, which I believe has allowed him to put out such an interesting album, far from his hair metal days and without entirely adopting alternative rock either.

For people like me, whose musical universe revolves around Nirvana, Oasis and Metallica (to put it in a very simplistic and summed-up way), this is the kind of album that makes one wonder how can so many years have passed by without ever knowing about the existence of such a great piece of work (I’m saying this because I just picked this up a few months ago). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is a groundbreaking masterpiece, far from it. But I do believe it’s a rather refreshing addition to my musical collection, and a great way to expand my musical universe by discovering an artist, but most of all an album, that almost exactly corresponds to what I like listening to. And it’s all the more impressive since it’s been out since 1997. For these reasons, I will give this album a 4.


user ratings (10)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
antemara
December 22nd 2008


1 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

good review, i had been waiting for this one

spoon_of_grimbo
December 23rd 2008


2241 Comments


sounds interesting, but i'll bet good money this album isn't as good as the Wildhearts song he's stolen the name from.

great first review though! maybe break up that longer middle paragraph and add italics for album titles etc. but otherwise, good job! gets my vote!This Message Edited On 12.23.08

tinpanalley78
January 8th 2009


9 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I was an Extreme fan, and I have no problem with artists' "change of artistic direction", but this album is just a mess. Musically and lyrically, it sounds fake and dishonest. It makes me cringe when I try to listen to it.

FeelingShred
March 22nd 2011


27 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This album has all I like. Tempo changes, catchy choruses, great guitar work and crisp production.
"What You Want" is one of the songs I most listened ever.
Great album and it's part of my life.
Wish I have talent to compose such songs.

DiegoPujolT
January 14th 2014


12 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I am a BIg fan of Nuno, and Extreme is one of my favorite bands. But this album is just too different from what I like about him. Still, it is a pretty solid and consistent album. This guy should be A LOT more famous and successful. A unique artist.



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