|Mattias IA Eklundh: Freak Guitar|
|2001, Favored Nations / Thunderstruck Productions, FN2210-2|
Well, you will not be able to say that I did not give careful listening to Freak Guitar to write this review. This is because this album is so unconventional that it took me three straight days of dedicated listening to figure out what I was going to say about it. And, even after that I still wasn't quite sure what to make of Freak Guitar. So, I guess from one perspective it could be a good thing that Freak Guitar is so different that it requires a little effort to absorb. But, here goes my attempt at an assessment, and just keep in mind that this evaluation does not come from some flighty, half-cocked, cursory listening...
Freak Guitar by Mattias IA Eklundh can be characterized as a guitar-centric collage of diverse and sometimes unusual musical ideas that delve into both accessible and obscure tonality and themes. The musical style is reminiscent of Zappa, Thal, and Vai at different points in the album, though I wouldn't say that Eklundh is cut from any mold relative to these guys. The common thread throughout the constantly changing musical soundscape is Eklundh's intensive and driving fretwork.
I think the "freak"-ishness of this album comes from the slightly off-centered perspective that the musical vision is approached. Some of the tracks are simply and obviously obscure and outside in nature while others, such as "La Bamba" and "Detroit Rock City", though based on more straight-ahead, mainstream musical premises, take a very unusual angle in the interpretation of these well-known songs. The angle taken can be a little disturbing at first, but it is actually pretty amusing because it is done "tongue in cheek".
There is a certain cleverness that Eklundh possesses in his compositions that will appeal to some people, probably those who enjoy the off-beat approaches of Zappa and Thal, and the stunt guitar work of Vai, though I am not sure how wide the appeal will be outside of that type of audience. I found the music to be entertaining in places, but even after long listening I am still not sure how much I will listen to it in the future. And though the guitar work is good enough to attract serious consideration, the aspect of this album that appealed to me most was the tongue-in-cheek aproach that made me laugh at Eklundh's slightly dimented wit. Eklundh has an uncommon grasp on the psychology that underlies music (similar to Zappa and Thal) that he uses to affect certain responses from the listener. There is a particular type of genius in this because Eklundh uses his guitar skills as a tool to achieve his intended effects on the listener and not necessarily just for the simple demonstration of his guitar skills.
I'm really not sure how to advise prospective listeners on this album. I think there may be parts that you will like, parts that are entertaining, parts that you will focus on the guitar work, and other parts where you are just going to scratch your head and wonder what the hell Eklundh was thinking. But, I suspect that all of these things were intended by Eklundh when he put this diverse and unusual album together. And, even if you don't like most of the music on Freak Guitar, you'll have to admit that it is funny in places and that a guy that has a picture of himself (looking happy) with his dog (looking tolerant) in the liner notes can't be all bad... even if he is a little strange! (which is what I think his dog is thinking too!)... ;)
|2) God - The Mechanic|
|3) The Grey Hat Of Compromise|
|4) Lisa's Passion For Heavy Metal|
|5) La Bamba|
|6) Evil Shower|
|7) When Sam Played It Again|
|8) Midsummer Night In Hell|
|10) (Friday Afternoon) In A Galaxy Far Away|
|11) The Satanic Moonwalk|
|13) Detroit Rock City|
|14) The Territorial Thing|
|15) Time To Breathe|
|16) Mumbo Jumbo|
|17) The Mud Man|
|18) Dr Pangloss Goes To Lisbon|
|19) Faith In Chaos|
|20) Revenge Of The Bambi Loving Terrorist|
|22) Our Man In Beijing|
~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com ~ Chris@ChrisRuel.com
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