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The Aristocrats | Culture Clash

by Alissa Ordabai
– Senior Columnist —

The Aristocrats  Culture ClashJazz fusion is a difficult genre to engage in – many have tried and few have succeeded. How much of rock’s swagger do you surrender to the knowingness of jazz? And how much of the jazz’s expansiveness do you curtail to align with rock’s laconic rules of engagement?

But there is no reason why this record’s mixture of self-irony, great chops, and jazz savvy shouldn’t have worked. After all, Guthrie Govan is well-known not simply for his A-grade technique, but for his erudition and flexibility.

The pose, however, turns out too complex on this release for the band to maintain with the nonchalant way they aim at. Toward the end of the album the sobriety of their jazz grows increasingly at odds with the intensity of their rock, and the absurdist humor becomes too predictable to continue gluing the two together.

So on the final three tracks they decide to tone down the comicality and get on with the nitty-gritty of structurally merging rock and jazz. The result is an earnest, prosy and at times deliberately mechanistic exercise in craftsmanship and an attempt to extrapolate modest compositional ideas through diligent impro. Sadly, it doesn’t travel anywhere others haven’t visited before. With trips like these what you bring back is directly proportionate to how far you go, and here the journey becomes more of a sightseeing cruise than a discovery expedition.

It’s true that the hardest thing to do these days is to come up with something new, yet truthful. And you can’t blame the band for dealing with this problem the way so many others have chosen do – by turning their music into a hodgepodge of genres, styles, moods, and allusions. Here, however, we find out that mixing a bunch of all-too-familiar paradigms from different genres and giving it a “humorous” twist doesn’t always bring a novel result.

Genre: Jazz Fusion

Guthrie Govan – guitar
Bryan Beller – bass
Marco Minnemann – drums

Track Listing:
1. Dance of the Aristocrats
2. Culture Clash
3. Louisville Stomp
4. Ohhhh Noooo
5. Gaping Head Wound
6. Desert Tornado
7. Cocktail Umbrellas
8. Living the Dream
9. And Finally

Label: Boing!


Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10


3 Comments on The Aristocrats | Culture Clash

  1. Mr. Bill // August 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm //

    Jazz? What exactly was it that you listened to?
    It couldn’t have been this album.
    “Sadly, it doesn’t travel anywhere others haven’t visited before.”
    And where was that?
    These tunes don’t sound anything like the last release. Good lord, open up your ears and put away your self imposed limitations, or get another job!

  2. Tess Tickle // July 25, 2013 at 3:26 am //

    I never expected to see a negative review of this record, especially one which I still do not understand. Is English your first language, Mr. Ordabai? After the umpteenth reading of your article, I think you are saying that the genres/musical styles are badly integrated on this record- can you point me to other works which do the job better? If this music lacks novelty, where should I go, to hear something authentically innovative? Hold on a minute, the new Black Sabbath release gets a higher score on this website.

  3. Do you only write quality reviews for music you personally enjoy? Although I know nothing of your musical knowledge, ability, or level of familiarity with each artist in The Aristocrats, your piece here certainly doesn’t convey a large amount of any of those things.

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