« Dogs Hit Record Low Point »

Okay, I have pretty much lost my faith in Mike Keneally's musical output. He just put out Dog and that seems to be an appropriate title, sad to say. It has been four years since he put out his last full band album, and three since he did his "solo" project. I don't know what it is; I just didn't hear more than a few minutes of anything that was satisfying on this new CD. And the crazy thing is, I got the thing for FREE. I can't justifiably feel ripped off, but I do feel that it was a lost opportunity. Back when the current band was newly formed as a four piece, MK dubbed it the "rude and fuzzy" quartet. Granted, there is a few passages that sound exceedingly thick, and some that rock, but overall, I just don't hear rude and fuzzy. I hear clean- to overdriven- guitar tones, and Bryan Beller's huge five string bass that would fit into a lot of modern pop records' sonic footprint, but not a lot of over the top stuff that reaches out and strangles me. I thought there would be more clever interaction between guitars, and more snappy arrangements and frankly, ideas. But now I am hearing his certain cliches over and over.

The sound of the recording is the best he has ever had, and the fact that it was recorded, more or less, by the same crew of people, both players and engineers, in just a couple places, makes for a consistent sound from start to finish, unlike the stuff he used to do, which was really an odd whirlwind of players, engineers, studios, and other elements, all digitally edited into a final form. Oh, and those older albums always were a few seconds or minutes short of the CD's capacity of 80 minutes. At least MK has given that up. This CD is relatively short, and at least doesn't have the usual link tracks that help his wildly eclectic stuff segue. I used to love that stuff, but then I realized it was filler so that he could record 80 minute albums, and they later lost their luster. But, for the most part, this is the well-produced, well-recorded album I'd been hoping for, except for the fact that the material just leaves me feeling blah.

I guess it is time to find a new hero. MK has been frustrating-to-disappointing for the the last four years or so. I like a lot of things about him, and am probably really just jealous in a lot of ways, but really, his stuff is playing it safer and safer all the time, when I know damn well he could do some startling stuff. He has a lot of potential, but now he wants to play these little jam-band tunes that echo some Zappa roots of his, and so forth. In some regards, I think it's great that he has streamlined some, but some of this stuff is just boring and stiff compared to things that he did ten years ago.

I have had this theory for about five years that Mike had some serious magic happen on his earlier stuff because he had to play with people who could take him or leave him. To guys like Doug Lunn and Toss Panos, or Frank Briggs or Scott Thunes, he was some clever upstart but not anything that would make them give up their day gigs. So, in effect, Mike had to really do some clever shit to make it worth their while, because I know for a fact he wasn't able to pay them too well, and often made them learn complex stuff on short notice. So really, Mike had to ascend to THEIR levels. But now, he is surrounded by younger guys who think of him as the best gig they ever got, and it's more like the Mike-to-Zappa relationship, where people are lining up to get the gig with Mike, something that I think has led to his seemingly relaxed approach to his music. And, it seems that he is just mellowing with age, and before he is totally fat, balding, and gray, he wants to be able to say he got some chicks to shows. I can say the early-mid 90's were not really good years for chicks at MK shows, but over the last seven years or so, there have been a lot more, and it may be just a coincidence, the music has been a LOT safer, and less balls-out.

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