Talk about an auspicious entree into 2013 - Pinnick Gales Pridgen have thrown down the gauntlet hard - the high-water mark for the new year is set, and set high.
Make no bones about it, this is a supergroup, but there's nothing to fear, for these three musical titans seem to have checked their egos at the door, and simply gotten down to the business of making a great album. There's not a weak link to be found - the songs are thrilling, with incredibly fat grooves, sophisticated changes, some great poetry for lyrics, and an always solid melodic foundation; the playing is stupendous - you have three guys who are absolute state of the art in terms of chops, tones and taste; even the production is exemplary - there's massive amounts of information, but it's all delivered with a crisp clarity. PGP has it all in spades, and I won't be alone in hoping that this lineup takes it onto the road, and back into the studio.
This record is amazing in its ability to stay on track - you've got three virtuosos flying at full speed, and it still ends up sounding more like a band with decades under their belts than a thrown together jam. I keep going back to the high quality of the songs, and you'll do the same. If Cream, or The Jimi Hendrix Experience had formed in this millennium they would face some stiff competition from this lot. Of course, you've got three gunslingers who have been plying their trade for ages, and they bring every hour of their experience to this show, and it shows.
Then there's the key, the glue that holds this whole magnificent affair together, and it's drummer Thomas Pridgen. I've often written that the right drummer can make an album great, and without a great drummer, no album can be truly great - this has never been more true, as Pridgen drives this hurdling rocket through the sonisphere with power, precision, and expertise. His playing is as fiery and imaginative as his bandmates, while his sense of constant propulsion is magnificent - he pushes and pulls his more experienced brethren with a confidence that borders on the edge of domination, but not at all in a bad way. A lesser sticksman would have been disastrous - this parade needs direction, and Pridgen turns in a performance that is not a bit less than fantastic. One of the most truly exciting drum performances since the days of Moon, Mitchell, Baker, and Bonzo.
As soon as Collateral Damage begins, you know this is not a loose jam, or a quick cash grab, the usual suspects when the word supergroup is bandied about. Everyone has brought their A-game, and all cylinders are firing. Crazy cool guitar parts, gang vocals that suck you right in, and a rhythm section that pulses, careens, and bludgeons beautifully. One thing that concerned me when I heard about this lineup was whether Gales would return to the tuneful, tasty axeslinger he's often shown himself to be in the past, or if he would continue in the more free flowing style that I've witnessed in his live performances for the last several years. While his playing here is nowhere near rote, complacent, or 'dumbed down,' it is very accessible and focused. I'm hearing the older melodic side of his psychedelic rock leanings and dare I say, some of his fills and melodic motions are even Beatles-esque!
Angels and Aliens sounds like Aerosmith from Mars - if only the Boston boys were near this melodic and powerful in this decade. This grooves like mad, and the burly melodicism is awesome. When the pre-chorus kicks in I'm instantly reminded of how powerful Living Colour were when they exploded onto the scene in 1988. There's a very Corey Glover/Vernon Reid moment that takes me back in a beautiful way. Gales's solo is everything you want a solo to be - it's technically impressive, it's emotional content is pure, unbridled passion, and he wraps it up with an ending that returns the ship to earth with a good bit of danger along the way. This is the best interplanetary rock ride since Lynott's Warrior. Things get very Hendrixian when Gales takes the tune out on a phase distorted ride-out that makes my ancient studio monitors shudder orgasmically.
Wishing Well is a perfect example of the marriage between Pinnick's bass and Gales's never obvious chord voicings. This is a musical matrimony made in the heavens, and not to be ignored, Pridgen's drum work intertwines with Gales's wah pedal in a near miraculous fashion. This is the closest Pinnick comes to King's X in voice and composition, but it still manages to sound nothing besides fresh and new.
Pinnick puts his brilliant street poetry on display to full effect with Hate Crime - his shamanistic presence has always posited him favorably amongst the most literary and spiritually progressed rockers as he spills out his passionate message. This lays it out as powerfully as it can be laid out:
"Tell me who would choose to be, a hate crime candidate?
No way, not one, no.
Tell me who would choose to live a lifetime with hate?
Maybe somebody, somebody somewhere, but not me, no, no, no."
If this is any indication of what we can expect from 2013, we're in for a barnburner. This is incredibly vital, brilliant, and beautiful music.
Black Jeans is another example of the massive mastery of form on display here. Cinematic and brooding, Pridgen's military snare work keeps this blues dirge at attention, and his dazzling work on the chorus sections is awe inspiring. As Gales solos, dUg's bass is as big as an ox, and then the fireworks go full tilt and it's off to the races. This outfit will conquer the world when they tour - they must tour, at least some shows, this is too good to not be put on public display.
It takes some balls to cover Cream, even more to cover Sunshine of Your Love, and I congratulate these fellows for being more than up for the task. It's detuned and Pridgen all but thumbs his nose at Mr. Baker with his take no prisoners display of trap-tastic kit work. Covers of this tune fail because of the drums - wait until you hear what happens when Gales goes into the guitar solo - all bets are off. Up to the task? Hahaha, they murder it, wonderfully.
Me and You brings the album back to modern rock, and it's a melodic, rocking tune that nods its hat to power pop, and Pinnick's earlier work with the much vaunted King's X. This almost sounds quaint when measured next to some of the record's more adventurous moments, but when Gales kicks in the extra gain and wah for his extended solo, it's right back to putting on the seat belts - the whole thing gets wickedly melodic at the end of the solo, and for the rest of the tune, and the level of sophisticated composition on the menu is refreshed once again.
Gales puts on his bop hat to ring us into The Greatest Love - another new genre is invented before our eyes, and we dance, we hum, we get surprised and grin. This is some joyful jazz, indeed. Probably the most sophisticated piece of jazz rock since Spectrum Road brought back hard fusion from the dead last summer. This is another example of why this band must play live. Lord only knows where this could lead.
Pinnick Gales Pridgen is an absolutely fabulous record. I hope I hear a bunch of records this brilliant before this new year is over, but if I do, I'll be pretty shocked. This band has nailed it. The record won't be released until February 12th, but having heard it, I can't sit on the information - the word must be spread. You deserve....no, you need to hear rock this brilliant. A beautiful and stunning debut.
dUg Pinnick, Eric Gales, and Thomas Pridgen - I salute and thank you, gentlemen. You have made my world a better place.
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