Attention Deficit - The Idiot King

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA9054-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:12:00

If you've read my review of Attention Deficit's debut, you know that I didn't care much for the music they were making. And while I had a hard time listening to that album, I am having a hard time not listening to The Idiot King. I keep playing it over and over again, intending to write down my thoughts about it, but instead I just listen to it. So, guess what folks, I'm urging you to seek this out.

One of my favorite instruments is the guitar, which won't surprise those of you who've read my other reviews. Well, just on the basis of the guitar playing by Alex Skolnick alone, I am quite satisfied with this album. His lines are either lyrical and warm or distorted and fuzzy, with varying tempos, and always interesting. But that doesn't mean this is a guitar album, far from it. This is definitely a trio, and while each is given their own space, no one performer dominates. While this might seem like a) an obvious comparison to make and b) that I've heard no other bassists, Michael Manring's fat tone reminds me so much of Tony Levin. It is an open and inviting tone that draws you into the music and makes you feel comfortable. Tim Alexander's, drumming is very solid and dynamic. I love to hear a drummer who uses the full breadth of his kit, knows when make the cymbals shimmer, and when to make them crash with force -- Alexander is one of those drummers.

The extreme abstractism of Attention Deficit is gone, which is good for me, but for those who really liked their debut, you may think the trio has gone one step back towards commercialism. I don't think they have really, but I think they have found each other's groove a lot better. The toss-it-together feel has been replaced by give-and-take interaction. And the grooves they create here are interesting and often exciting. One is almost on the edge of their seat, wondering just where the track is going to go next, and there is a freshness that tells me you'll have this feel each time you listen to it no matter how often you do so.

What you will find on the The Idiot King is a tapestry of music that is often angular with experimental-jazz-y textures. On "Any Unforeseen Event" Alex Skolnick's lines are, as mentioned above, lyrical and warm; light without being lightweight. "The Risk Of Failure" begins in a very Crimsonish way, but suddenly Skolnick lets loose with a distorted, and what I can only describe as fuzzy, guitar lead that made me think of the keyboards in Genesis' "Abacab" during the outro. It's that raw, husky feeling. But that's the only similarity to Genesis, as otherwise latter day Crimson is an apt comparison.

"RSVP" begins very mellow, you think perhaps an acoustic instrumental ballad, but after a few sections, you'll think of Rush. But then it veers off in another direction, allowing for a Manring bass solo that just about sings in deep, rich, throaty tones. I hear a hint of Greg Lake in the bass' voice, but nothing, obviously, as concrete that I can mention any one specific ELP track. "My Fellow Astronauts" is darkly funky and slightly playful. You can almost see the video -- perhaps too literal, but spectacular test flights of rockets blasting into the air, the affects of g-forces on the human body, astronauts going EVA, etc. The track is quite energetic, but also has a serious undertone that says subtly that space is a dangerous place. Not sure what they were thinking as they were recording this, but one might think of the international spacestation being constructed at present. "The Killers Are To Blame," gives Alexander the main focus, and he uses the extra space to play some thunderous drums -- my notes read: thrumming like a racing heart; like a particularly violent thunderstorm. Dark atmosphere is created by the guitar and bass being mixed way back; any other place and the track wouldn't have the same impact. The next track, "Nightmare On 48th St" is very heavy, with speedy guitar runs, pounding bass and drums -- it is "Flight Of The Bumblebee" on speed, a plane streaking across the sky, trying to break the speed-of-light barrier. "Public Speaking Is Very Easy" is phat and funky, all I could think of loose and floppy lips contorting themselves to the music. Well, now I guess that's awfully fitting as old Dubya does have a hard time getting his lips to pronounce words this works on a subliminable level. Erm, subliminal, that is. In fact, there is a track called "Dubya," which is a very serious sounding track, though one might expect something very irreverent given the title. I suspect the music was composed and then given titles rather than the other way around. The track titles, and the album title itself, if you haven't already guessed (or know otherwise) make reference to the recent US "election" and the "winner" of that election.

Oh, I've only scratched the surface. But I had to get at least this much out of me to give you a mere taste of what delights await you. And, honestly, I was tentative about even giving this release a listen, which may be bad form, but it's the truth. I was expecting to dislike it, but I can honestly say that I love it. I think you will, too. Very very recommended.

American Jingo (4:04) / Any Unforeseen Event (3:10) / The Risk Of Failure (7:41) / Low Voter Turnout (4:47) / Unclear, Inarticulate Things (4:05) / RSVP (7:53) / My Fellow Astronauts (4:04) / Dubya (7:12) / The Killers Are To Blame (4:24) / Nightmare On 48th Street (3:41) / Public Speaking Is Very Easy (2:03)

Alex Skolnick - guitar
Tim Alexander - drums, guitar
Michael Manring - bass

Attention Deficit (1998)
The Idiot King (2001)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 16th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 1091
Language: english


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