Adrian Belew Side One

The fact that Adrian Belew has had a storied career (stints with Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails) and is a wildly creative guitar player could never be in dispute. Since the middle of the ’70s, Belew has coaxed sounds and textures out of his instrument that have left critics, other guitarists and fans alike scratching their heads in wonder. On Side One, his most recent solo record, Belew doesn’t disappoint his six-string disciples; throughout the record textural waves of guitar crash and careen in all directions and illustrate that Belew is still reinventing his instrument from the inside out. "Beat Box Guitar” upstages Tom Morello at his own game and finds Belew sketching out a percussive melody while "Madness” lives up to its name in its schizophrenic sound. "Elephants” could very well be the soundtrack to a stampede. It’s been a standing joke for years that, in order to truly feel the music, musicians shouldn’t play the notes and no player to date has been so able to conjure up sonic landscapes like Belew. Unfortunately, Belew isn’t much of a lyricist; on Side One Belew gives both his songwriting and vocal abilities a stretch with poor results. At times utterly ridiculous ("Walk Around the World”) and nonsensical ("Ampersand”), Belew’s lyrics are uniformly pointless and only serve to detract from otherwise brilliant songcraft. As for Belew’s voice, well, suffice it to say that he’d have been better to enlist Les Claypool for vocals as he did for his bass prowess on Side One. If this record is any indication (there are two more "sides” forthcoming), Adrian Belew has only refined his talent for painting Monet influenced landscapes with sound. As long as he stays away from lyrics and singing, Belew is still capable of some very compelling work and hopefully sides two and three will yield great batches of instrumentals. (Sanctuary)