Review Summary: Joe Satriani delivers an inspired, yet sometimes tiresome techno album that fans will either hate or love. Definitely not a good starter album, but a must-have for any diehard Satch fans.
Joe Satriani spent the better part of the 80s and 90s lending legitimacy to instrumental rock guitar. While many of his peers seemed utterly incapable of slowing down Joe played over his compositions with a tastefulness and restraint, always seeming to play the right note at the right time. By the time the year 2000 rolled around Joe Satriani had garnered a reputation as a world-class musician, and earned respect from guitarists and music-aficionados alike. So you can imagine the surprise fans got when Joe decided to record an album in a style of music looked upon by most musicians in disgust: Techno.
Make no mistake though. This is not something you'll ever hear in a night club, nor something you'll feel particularly inclined to dance with. This is not instrumental rock techno, this is techno instrumental rock. At the core of the music are the same elements that made us buy his previous albums. The almost supernatural feel for melody, the sense of hope that seems to pervade almost all of his songs. It's just that this time it all happens inside of a techno beat.
I know almost nothing about techno. I can't tell you if this is a good techno album or not. I can tell you that it is a good guitar album, if you can get over the fact that it's techno. Joe's playing seems to be inspired, and you can hear a real sense of exploration in this album as he wonders through sonic possibilities he's never tried before. This is a double-edged sword, however. For every brilliant moment on the album there's also a moment where his playing seems a bit aimless. By the time you're halfway through this album you start to get antsy and feel the need to put on Satch Boogie or something a little more accessible. The album is probably too long, but hard-core Satch fans will have no problem suffering through average parts to get to the brilliant.
Notable songs include Devil's Slide, Champagne?, and Clouds Race Across the Sky. Devil's Slide, the album's opener, is a nice introduction into Satch's new style. It begins very techno-ish, but eventually goes into an awesome heavy rhythm, and finally to a pretty cool solo in which Joe shows off some of his shredding abilities. The song Champagne? starts out with some slide guitar that sort of sounds like a Martian ZZ Top. All in all a very cool, if unorthodox, blues song. And then there's Clouds Race Across the Sky, which contains a hauntingly beautiful melody that you just have to hear. A real highlight of the album.
I gave this album a 4, but if the techno aspect is too much for you to overcome you should probably think of it as a 3. This is a must-have for any big Joe fan. However, if you're looking for a starter album, or if you're not very open to different types of music I would stay as far away from this as possible. Listen to Surfing With the Alien and The Extremist first, and if you like them then maybe try this out.