en: Side Two [info]
Ostensibly known as King Crimson's singer/guitarist and as the world's most prolific sessionman (Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, Paul Simon, David Bowie etc. etc), Adrian Belew's solo career has been something of a word-of-mouth thing. This is a state of affairs approaching the criminal as he's been regularly churning out avant pop mini-masterpieces on a regular basis for nigh on 25 years, each filled with a fine mix of outre guitar and Beatlesque songcraft. Side Two errs on the side of outre...
Conceived as the second part of a trilogy (guess what the other two parts are called?), Two follows an album of power trio workouts with Les Claypool and Danny Carey. It still contains the familiar whammy bar pyrothechnics that make him a byword for class amongst guitarists, but here it's tempered with some edgy electronica that broods, teases and worries. In contrast to his proven gift for melody and structure these are more like sketches in paranoia. Phrases are repeated (''Dead Dog On Asphalt'', ''I Wish I Knew'') over keening strings and bubbling sequencers, leaving you with a sense of foreboding.
It's this sense of dread that also contrasts with the sunshine-filled optimism of previous work. Not that you ever get the sense that he's a despairing type, just that he sees with a painter's eye that censors nothing (the cover features one of his own canvases).Indeed, the closingtrack, Sunshine, shows a zen-like acceptance of the struggle and futilityinherent in life's journey ('You start off wrinkled and you cry/You end up wrinkled and you die')yet still manages to sound breezily optimistic. Even at his bleakest, Belew remains a committedhumanist who marbles his dissonance with achingly beautiful chords and fragments of tune. We could do with more of his type...