Friday, January 24, 2014

Buy This Album - 'Unstoppable Momentum' by Joe Satriani before anyone goes rolling their eyes or exhaling too deeply over the idea of being told to buy a CD without a single lyric on it, hear me out. (I’m not going to let this review deteriorate into a discussion on the merits of listening to music without lyrics. Just know this: you should.)

In the world of guitar gods, soloists, shredders, face melters, and mind-bending musical weirdos, Joe Satriani has always done an impeccable job of standing out from the rest. The biggest reason for this, as far as I can tell, is not a dearth of comparable licks, technique, skill, or musicality (when it comes to rock guitar, Satriani is one of the best alive.) It’s a commitment to keeping his music grounded in the things that most of us are always craving in every album we listen to: groove, feel, dynamics, and melody. Far too often, instrumental artists allow their art to take them far beyond the boundaries of what most non-musicians can stomach or appreciate, losing any sense of relevance or listenability along the way. Satriani has always been great not only for his chops, but for his accessibility – here’s a guitar master who’s downright easy to listen to.

His latest album, Unstoppable Momentum, is a grand reminder of what’s possible when incredible musicians dedicate themselves to finding the sweet spot in their compositions: the one-two punch of incredible musicality and deliberate communication with audiences. The melodies on this album are so strong you will find yourself singing them despite the lack of lyric. The grooves are solid, diverse, and punchy – each song has its own unique character while fitting into the grand scheme of the album as a whole. 

And there’s a good reason for that. To make the album, Satriani teamed with Chris Chaney (a bassist notable for his work with Jane’s Addiction), Zappa keyboardist Mike Keneally, and, the pièce de résistance, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Put lightly, the pound-for-pound musicianship on this record is out of this world. 

But what has resulted on Unstoppable is decidedly not a musie fanboy’s dream with nothing tangible left over for anyone else. Far from it. The CD is loaded with incredibly catchy tunes - the soundtrack, if you will, to a very, very cool rock ‘n’ roll doc. Satriani has indeed gone more experimental before (on the Engines of Creation album, for instance), but this record is much more of a straight-ahead delivery, reminiscent of his classics The Extremist & Surfing with the Alien. This is UP music, perfect for a drop-top summer road trip or taking a skydiving leap from 20,000 feet. 

This record is a testament to the power of rock ‘n’ roll to be cool again – to instill that feeling of freedom and possibility… of the potential to live our dreams and the motivation to go after them. If you’ve never listened to music like this before (or even ever thought of it), I encourage you to start here. If you’re familiar with Satch and what he does, then hurry up and grab his latest. You shan’t be disappointed.

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