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Mike Keneally and Metropole Orkest - The Universe Will Provide (2004)


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By Tom Johnson

I was a little disappointed with guitarist Mike Keneally's initial release of 2004, Dog. It seemed to be lacking a little something physical, some cohesive element, in the music, but where it worked it worked great. It was just too unbalanced by some out of place avant-garde-ish pieces that didn't really fit in on such an otherwise rockin' release.

So when the announcement came that The Universe Will Provide, Keneally's seemingly long-in-production “orchestral" piece would follow shortly on the heels of Dog, I wasn't quite sure how to react. Caution was the only thing I could feel: This would be the moment that revealed if Keneally had slipped quietly over that dark side a peak of creativity often has, or if he had somehow managed to take everything to the next level.

The latter, amazingly, was the verdict.

The Universe Will Provide somehow managed to combine all of Keneally's previous excesses, from the wildly tangential and angular avant-garde excursions of Nonkertompf to the enveloping warmth of Wooden Smoke, and the result was a stunning, beautiful exploration of what I can only imagine are the soundtracks to a kid's most vivid dreams—all of it without a single word. Forget that snippets of this could be found in the weakness of Dog's “This Tastes Like A Hotel." That kind of confused, meaningless meandering was nowhere to be found in any of this album's 13 pieces.

Most impressive of all, however, Was that this manages to escape the embarassment of being a “rocker with orchestra" vanity piece. This, if anything, was the album that Keneally has been saving all his creativity to make. Set free from Frank Zappa's band a few years before his unfortunate death, Keneally had been flirting around the fringes of this kind of work, but it's only now that his skills and personality have matured to the point where something like this is created purely out of a need and not an ego-soothing exercise in excess. It couldn't have happened before then and it couldn't have happened later. Then it happened, perfectly.

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