Mike Keneally: You Must Be This Tall (2013)
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Virtuoso guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Mike Keneally has been all over the musical radar, spanning the past three decades. Performing with Frank Zappa in 1988, the artist has also aligned with avant-garde guitar hero Henry Kaiser and currently mans the keyboards amid some guitar work in support of iconic progressive rock guitarist Joe Satriani. With his 24th solo album, Keneally propagates some insanely complex time signatures, perhaps deriving influence from Zappa but mixes it up poignantly by infusing humor, slamming backbeats, symphonic keys, and a seemingly eternal array of slants and divergent contrasts. He is joined by all-universe drummer Marco Minnemann, but Keneally performs on just about everything other than the kitchen sink while garnering additional support from bassist Bryan Beller (The Aristocrats) and others.
The album includes a conglomerate of topsy-turvy keys and synth parts, succinct choruses, dancing and pulsating rhythms, buoyant melodies and Keneally's formidable guitar work. It's a penetrating and meticulously engineered journey, tinted with brief melodic hooks, clamorous crescendos, vocal overlays and much more. And he injects a perky, blues vibe with his note-bending guitar lines on "Cornbread Crumb." As is the case with most of these pieces, the artist envelops the program with intricately concocted progressive rock and terse snippets of hard rock into the schema with rippling grooves, colorific treatments and surprises that emerge and disappear in nanoseconds. However, on "Pitch Pipe" Keneally executes some ridiculously tricky, Zappa-like unison sequences, juxtaposed with a Middle Eastern motif, but alters the flow during "The Rider," which boasts a tuneful, anthem-like pop-rock melody atop a mid-tempo pulse. Here, Keneally lets it rip on guitar via his howling and searing lines. And he launches an aerial onslaught on the final track "Glop," where he twists his guitar into submission and transforms matters into a Caribbean percussion vamp.
Given the classy album artwork that intimates antiquity, displaying old black and white photos of boardwalks, city streets, cafes and so on, Keneally offsets the imagery with a futuristic and vastly entertaining sequence of musical concepts. The artist will most assuredly give your neural system a shot of adrenaline along with some good-natured fun, which is an ingredient that underlines much of the program.
Track Listing: You Must Be This Tall; Cavanaugh; Plum; Cornbread Crumb; Kidzapunk;
Pitch Pipe; The Rider; Bolarius; Popes; Indicator; 5th Street; Glop.
Personnel: Mike Keneally: electric and acoustic guitars, bass, many synthesizers,
percussion, programmed drums; Marco Minnemann: human drums (1, 5, 12);
Matt Resnicoff: voices (2); April West: trombone (3); Joe Travers:
drums (4, 9); Bryan Beller: bass (4, 9); Rick Musallam: rhythm guitar
and electric guitar (4, 7, 9); Missy Andersen: voice (7); Andy
Partridge: electric guitar, drum loops (10).
Record Label: Exowax
Style: Beyond Jazz