One of the more unique albums currently in Buckethead’s impressive catalogue, Population Override is a mixture of blues/jazz/funk and even metal. Listening to any album by Buckethead is quite an experience as you never really know what you are going to get coming out of your speakers or in your headphones. I highly recommend when picking up a Buckethead album, don’t listen to any previews or read any reviews. That way you have no clue what you’re getting into and that makes listening to the album that much more fun. It was how I approached Population Override. I had heard Kaleidoscalp before this album and it was a trip hearing that album. I came up with the idea of picking another album of his pretty much at random. It pretty much worked out as hoped…I had literally no idea what I was about to hear, and therefore went in with an open mind. It was a great idea.
It’s pretty hard to classify Population Override into any one particular genre. Then again, for most Buckethead albums that is the case. He has albums that may lean towards heavy metal for example, but they usually include some allusions to another type of music. In this case, jazz is a heavy influence on this record, as it seems as if Buckethead took jazz and threw convention out the window and threw his own spin onto the style. This makes this album sound nothing like most jazz albums out there. Still it’s obvious, the connection is there.
It’s really one of the more interesting albums of his since it’s not just a bunch of riffs where he just plays as fast as possible to show off his skills without creating much of a song. He tends to do that on certain albums, and here it actually seems like her decided to write actual songs with a point to them. Sure many of the songs sound like an extended jam but they actually do sound like a song as opposed to a bunch of notes. In addition to guitar, Buckethead also plays bass on the album. He is competent as a bassist, but let’s be honest; does anyone listen to a Buckethead album for the bass playing?
As mentioned, Buckethead also uses elements of funk in the record. Actually it’s more than an element; the album is in some ways a funk album as well. That’s what makes it so great…it keeps you guessing. The high points on the album are probably Too Many Humans, almost nine minutes of blues influenced rock that shows just how talented this man is as a guitarist, and the last song … (the title) is literally a blues song and sadly it’s a minute and a half long. To me, I really wish it was a 5 minute song; I would have loved to see where he would have gone with it.
A great album by a great artist, Population Override is a record that more people need to hear. Any fan of the blues or jazz looking for a more rocking version of what they are used too would be wise to pick it up. A complete recommendation from me and there’s no real negatives on the album.
I usually like to avoid clichés but it is commonly said “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. That is especially true in music, as an album really needs to start off strong to hold in a listener. The good news is that Don’t Make Me Wait, the most recent album by Nick Tann has that attention-grabbing first track. One Night Stand (Glad You Came) is a song where the talents Tann possesses really shine though. It’s obvious to anyone who listens that he is an extremely talented guitarist. Acoustic music is almost better at times then electric, since it’s a bit harder to manipulate in the studio, and Tann uses the acoustic guitar as a form of artistic expression. It doesn’t hurt that he has a very strong voice; he has impressive range, but even better is that he actually has control over his voice.
One other aspect I like of this album has very little to do with the actual music, and that is the production. It may seem like a useless compliment, but so many albums today are over-produced, not with effects but in terms of the actual mixing. It’s really amazing how many albums spend the entire time “in the red” to the point where they are hard to listen to. It’s a great thing that this album isn’t. Lots of time, a singer with such high range tends to be so high on the VU meter that it is not the easiest thing to do to make the album not crack. Very high quality production values make this album way easier to listen to.
In terms of the album itself, it’s a mixture of folk and blues. His guitar work is somewhat typical of the folk genre. It is better than most albums; however the general feel of the album musically can be seen as similar to some of Okkervil River’s music. It’s more stripped down, but the sound is close to certain Okkervil songs. It’s probably my biggest gripe with the album. It just doesn’t really sound all that unique at times. Some of it does…some of it doesn’t.
Tann’s voice is what sets this album apart from many others of the same general genre. He sounds like Eric Clapton (circa Me and Mr. Johnson) and Trey Anastasio came together vocally and the result would be something similar to Tann. I do think that Tann can hit the high notes a bit better then Anastastio for the most part. The vocals are the best part of the album, no question.
In general, it’s easy to recommend this album. It’s not the most groundbreaking album in the history of music, but it’s almost always a pleasant listen. If you are a fan of good acoustic music made by a musician who puts his soul into the music, then go for it. My negative take on the sound doesn’t take away the fact that it’s a very good album.
Let me get this out of the way to open the review, I am a Buckethead fan. He has produced many great albums over the years spanning a range of genres. To me, Population Override is his best album, and there will be a review of that at some point. Anyway, I have to say, as much as I enjoy most of what he does, this album just doesn’t pull me in. Don’t get me wrong, the guitar playing is great, but at the same time, the record just doesn’t seem like a cohesive unit, more like a collection of songs. It was released in 1999 on CyberOctave Records.
This album is an example of Buckethead’s more metal-influenced side. “Jump Man” opens the album, and it is probably the top song on it. It is pretty much a kind of summery of his career to date. It contains some great guitar work with plenty of studio influenced effects. I haven’t heard the song live, however it probably wouldn’t sound like the studio version. That’s not a bad thing, as he improvises during every show, so no two shows are completely the same.
The most disappointing song for me on the album is definitely “Who Me?” It starts out as a very quiet acoustic guitar piece, not unlike anything off his album Colma. Then it sounds as if he breaks a string, and makes an odd noise that is quite offsetting like a high-pitched “uh”. Very weird and it throws off what has the potential to have been one of the top cuts on the album.
Another song that should be mentioned is “The Ballad of Buckethead”. That song is unlike anything you’re going to hear on any of his other albums. Pretty much it tells the “story of Buckethead” (with vocals by Primus’s Les Claypool) which mentions how he was raised in a cage with chickens. For those not in the know, Buckethead’s website discusses how he was raised with chickens in a cage (hence the song title/lyrics)
Following a flurry of albums in 2004, guitarist John Frusicante took some time off from his solo career to focus on the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After the band released Stadium Arcadium in 2006, the band embarked on a two year world tour, after which, the Peppers went on hiatus. In 2009, Frusicante released his 10th solo studio album, through Record Collection.
Popping on the headphones for the first listen, the album begins with a nine minute solo guitar piece which brings to mind Eddie Hazel’s performance of Maggot Brain. It is a solid start to the record and is almost haunting in its simplicity. Not to say it is a basic set of notes, however the feeling it invokes is simple yet deep.
One thing that strikes many long-time listeners of Frusicante’s solo works is the improvement in his vocal range over the years. The albums he released while addicted to heroin consisted of mostly off note vocals, mixed in with some screeches. Rolling Stone said in a 2004 album review (post-drugs) that “He (Frusicante) now sounds more like Cat Stevens then a caterwauling homeless dude”. On this record, he shows off his falsetto that fans of the Chili Peppers have heard throughout the years, but even more impressive is his control over his voice, shifting from high to low in the same song.
Other key tracks include a cover of Tim Buckely’s Song to the Siren, which turns that classic into a long winding road of emotion, as well as Dark/Light. With appearances by former band mate Flea, and friend/frequent collaborator Josh Klinghoffer, the album is layered quite nicely. It is not just Frusciante singing with a solo guitar a la Dashboard Confessional, rather it has a depth to it that even Frusicante’s other albums lack.