One thing that everybody ought to know about me is that my interest in a record is heavily influenced by when and where it is played, giving the album’s desired effect. Some albums are good for a sunny summer day, while others are better for cool night in the city, and some for drizzling rain, and some for the frigid snow and ice. This particular album was released just before Halloween this year, so I automatically assumed this album was going to be a spooky, creepy, hollowed out release that could best be appreciated in a nighttime atmosphere at that time of year. Well, my excitement got the better of me (because you also need to know I am a massive Buckethead fan) and I decided to crack this one open in the mid-afternoon of the same day that I found it. By the time I finished it, I didn’t understand at all. I didn’t see how this album was even remotely relevant; it just bored me to tears. So I back another day, this time at night, and gave it another shot. After another couple shots at this album, I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that despite its spooky, unclean atmosphere, this is hardly anything more than Spinal Clock 2.0, which I didn’t even like then.
This particular failure in the pikes series has nothing to do with Buckethead’s rushed songwriting he has more than properly displayed in 2013, it simply has to do me not even remotely appreciating random percussion samples, and gimmicky banjo playing, wrapping up to be an ultimately pointless album. I would’ve been much better off in my relationship with Pumpkins if it had kept on going in the same direction portrayed in the very first track here. “Pumpkin Pikes 1” had an atmosphere, it meant something, and at night it is an amazing sound to here; Halloween time or otherwise. However, almost every second of material after the intro is blank and expressionless, all the same as in Spinal Clock, but with an even more obnoxious touch to it because of the addition of annoying sirens and alarms in a few of the tracks. These blaring noises, somehow incorporated into an album that’s supposed to be eerie and ominous only make the experience worse for me. The introduction to “Pumpkin Pikes 4” however manages to pull it off quite nicely, and is probably the only track here that can even remotely be appreciated because of just how well it pulls off this ghoulish record. It has a hair-raising sample of percussion with sullen beats, and a hollowed out echo to it that makes the track pleasant, despite any sort of melody.
This takes us into “Pumpkin Pikes 5”, which is probably the most frustrating track on here. It’s yet another track featuring some horrid loud noise in its intro, but it’s also the only track here that features pleasant banjo playing. Unfortunately enough however, every second of its exposure is marred by some ridiculously loud and irritating percussion that only makes my skin itch. “Pumpkin Pikes 6” takes us into more gimmicky territory with the man’s banjo, as well as some occasional keyboarding. This track is the ultimate snooze-fest of the 33rd Pike, ‘Pumpkins”. Clocking in at 6 minutes, it’s the standout track on the album, because in most other cases, the tracks here are just micro sketches of experimentation. The 6th track drags along seemingly endlessly, and when it’s finally over, the 7th track merely picks up where the 6th left off and just trips around with a sound I could never hope to explain with text, and then takes us to the 8th track that sounds almost identical to the ending of the 6th track. So from that point on, it’s just more banjo toying, and more indescribable samples, and percussion that makes no sense. “Pumpkin Pikes 13” is probably the strangest track out of them all. It’s the 3rd and final track on this album I enjoy. The percussion is nice, the banjo is pretty eerie, and the windy samples in the background make this track pretty enjoyable.
So there you have it, the first free pike in Buckethead’s massive collection of music, and it isn’t really hard to tell why. As a general rule I like just about anything he does with his guitar in the Pikes series, even up to this point in 2013, where the man is just spitting out nearly 2 albums a week on average. But this is the outlier amongst all that. This album makes another move at Buckethead’s ambient side with darker, twisted, hollowed out sounds, but fails yet again. So when all is said and done, you’ve got two sides to this review: if you heard Spinal Clock and liked it, then you’ll almost assuredly like this. But if you heard Spinal Clock and did not like it, you probably won’t like this. If you havn’t heard either of them yet, I suggest you do simply because I think everything in Buckethead’s discography deserves to be looked into at least once. But seriously, Pumpkins is an album that does nothing more than reveals my picky side. I could tell you that track 1 has well thought out musicianship, and how the 4th track has random jumbled up sounds that unlike the rest of the album do NOT completely suck, and that the 13th track actually lives up to the scary nature of the album; but all in all, this album is just pointless and does absolutely nothing for me. If you like this really dry and spooky stuff, like the “nightmare” album from Fantomas, or if you’re just into Buckethead 14x more than I am, then this may be for you. But, it simply doesn’t do the trick for me. The end.