Review Summary: The good kind of repetition.
At this point in the Pikes, most Buckethead addicts have come to accept the lack of continuity and direction for this “series” of albums. With over 17 albums released already in 2015, and >100 in the past 18 months, it’s hard to discern where he gets the drive to keep it up. Sure, there’s some focused gems in that pile of releases; Hold Me Forever
as a touching dedication to his mother, Monument Valley
with a decidedly unique atmosphere – but for the most part, these releases blunder due to a complete lack of individuality. Bland experimentation and guitar noodling pervade a large portion of new releases, and it becomes an exercise in repetition for both the artist and the consumer. While the most acclaimed releases from the chicken man feature raw emotion and a connection with the audience, Project Little Man
is actually just Buckethead doing more of the same. However, while the most common issue is complacency when behind his famous mask, here we see Brian Carroll keeping his eyes focused through the tiny slits in his mask. He embraces his persona wholeheartedly, penning an ode to long-time fans that we didn’t know we were missing until we heard it.
If you’ve never enjoyed the Bucket, steer clear. You’ll hear guitar noodling to the n-th degree, addictive killswitch motifs, funky riffs, toe-tapping straightforward drums – it’s got everything that listeners have developed a masochistic love/hate relationship with. However, what makes this one special is that Project Little Man
sees him at the absolute top of the game he’s spent 100+ albums developing. Tracks progress from fairly simple patterns into complex arrangements, with a tentative equilibrium teetering between the constantly shifting guitar passages and the comparatively simple drums (that carry a surprising amount of momentum). In fact, the first 8 minutes of the monolithic title track consists solely of riff progression, building a thick backbone before the noodling begins. While becoming superfluous at times, he often gives a brief pause to repeat an earlier melody with slight alterations in key and tone, existing as a slight nod to those who pay careful attention even while he indulges himself. Despite the excessive soloing in the latter portion of this track, constantly returning to motifs and cutting back drastically in ‘Thorne Room’ displays enough restraint to firmly ground the album. The result gives listeners the impression that Buckethead pushed himself to his limit rather than caving to braggadocio, which is a refreshing change of pace for someone who often falls on the wrong side of this fine line.
All things said and done, this won’t change your mind if you’ve never had an inclination towards his past releases. This is one strictly for the fans, featuring all the infamous traits Buckethead is renowned for; enraging for those who resent them, but endearing for those that have developed an attachment after countless albums. There’s an absurd amount of material to keep up with, and with no signs of slowing down, fans are understandably uneasy when a particularly poor string of experimental albums are released - but as long as he keeps his fans in mind with pieces like this one, we can rest easy knowing there will be more gems in the future.