Blast From The Past

Lone Rhino/Twang Bar King

I picked up a 2-disc edition of Adrian Belew’s solo albums from the 1980s. There was a time ‘Lone Rhino’ in particular was the ultimate in guitar-music hip, what with the stripped back 1980s arrangements and bizarre guitar tones inflected with an astute, spare sensibility. Adrian Belew played with Frank Zappa on ‘Sheik Yerbouti’ and ‘Baby Snakes’; he played with Bowie on ‘Lodger’; He made Talking Heads actually sound as cool as their rep; he was then 1/4 of the new 1980s King Crimson. What’s not to like? He even made Laurie Anderson palatable – sort of.

Listening to it today, I’m struck by how sparse and open the arrangements are on both albums. In this day and age it’s almost stilted what with that New York minimalist sensibility – you almost expect the music to be in flat pastel colours. If there’s one thing I’m not sure about it’s the aggressive minimalism that brought about the end to 1970s prog rock and ushered in ‘New Wave’. Yes, sometimes less-is-more vis-a-vis The Police but just as equally, less-is-less in the case of Joy Division. Or Laurie Anderson.

So Adrian Belew sounds like he’s surfing that incline between the 1980s minimalist chic and slick. Most days I just want to hear him go for it. They’re okay albums today in the light of his other works. I still like ‘Big Electric Cat’ and ‘Momur’ but I’m still not sure about ‘Adidas in Heat’.

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Filed under Prog Rock, Rock

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