"Giant Robot" (Cyberoctave; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

As a guitar fanatic, listening to Buckethead play guitar is pretty much an exhilarating experience. However, listening to “Giant Robot” is a lot of work that makes what could be an thoroughly exhilarating experience a sometimes deflating experience. 

If I understand the history of “Giant Robot” correctly, the album was a Japan-only release from 1994 until CyberOctave re-released worldwide in 2000 – but I don’t think there were any additional tracks added (i.e. I’m pretty sure it’s not a re-issue with bonus material).

After listening to “Giant Robot” there is little to doubt concerning Buckethead’s skills, technique, and inventiveness. Buckethead’s ability to create vivid soundscapes is top-notch. By combining avant-garde guitar riffs, funky bass, eclectic drumming, and various spoken word bits (many from classic and not-so-classic movies) Buckethead creates a colorful alterna-world that sounds like what a vibrant collage must look like to a child: an explosion of images - deliberate and random, juxtaposed and separate, color or black/white, orderly or nonsensical – yet simply invigorating.

“Buckethead’s Toy Store” is my favorite song on the disc. The instrumentals “Binge And Grab” and “I Love My Parents” also get high marks from me.

It goes without saying that I’ve never really bothered with the odd persona Buckethead has created for himself or the even more odd mystique that surrounds him. Hell, Buckethead joined Guns ‘N’ Roses and it didn’t change my impression of his musical talents (although I must admit that I questioned his motivations for taking the G’N’R gig). But since the new and false version of G’N’R seems to have imploded for what I can only hope is the last time, maybe Buckethead can get back to working with the likes of Les Claypool and other talented musicians who can think ‘outside-the-box’ and allow Buckethead to do what he does best – create music.

The bottom line is that I’d probably like “Giant Robot” a lot better if the spoken word bits didn’t cloud up the musical canvas. But the reality is that I’ll probably pull “Giant Robot” off the shelf for a few spins every year when I need to get a Buckethead fix.

Buckethead is joined by Iggy Pop, Bill Laswell, Bootsy Collins (ex-Parliament/Funkadelic), Jerome “Bigfoot” Bailey (Parliament/Funkadelic), Pinchface, Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and Karl Berger (Material).

For more information visit http://www.bucketheadland.com/

"Monsters and Robots" (Cyberoctave; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Shrouded by mystery, the KFC-domed madman known as Buckethead is a guitarist whose identity remains unknown. Some of you may remember him from his appearance on the "Last Action Hero" soundtrack when he performed with Michael Kamen's orchestra on the track "Jack And The Ripper" (actually, you probably remember the soundtrack more than the forgettable movie!). 

"Monsters And Robots" bears a crazed similarity to Vernon Reid's "Mistaken Identity," the funked-out insanity of Primus, and the kind of noises R2-D2 would make if it were to be struck by lightning. These elements combine into singular whacked out musical ruminations.

It might be best to describe "Monsters And Robots" as martial arts rock guitar as the songs could seemingly jump out of nowhere to subdue an unsuspecting villain. The twelve tracks are rhythmically diverse, DJ-influenced, quasi-virtuoso guitar workouts. "Jump Man," "Stick Pit," and "Night Of The Slunk" are highlights because they display a neat blend of distorted guitars, pounding beats, and technical superiority. 

But "Monsters And Robots" isn't always maniacal six-string weirdness. The pleasantly acoustic "Who Me?" shines while the baritone growling of "Revenge Of The Double-Man" shows Buckethead's knack for borrowing a Southern COC vibe yet still stamping it with his own signature scrawl. 

Some tracks get bogged down by incessantly resorting to effect-treated guitar noise ("The Shape Vs. Buckethead" and "Scapula") or rap-like chants ("Nun Chuka Kata"). It's enough to induce a coma. 

Overall this is kind of slow for my tastes ("Stun Operator" is quite guilty with "The Ballad Of Buckethead" not far behind), but "Monsters And Robots" is still very interesting to listen to. Fans of Steve Vai and Joboj would find many interesting things on "Monsters And Robots". 

"Monsters And Robots" was produced by Bill Laswell (Ginger Baker, Azonic). 

Buckethead is joined by Les Claypool on bass and Brain on drums (both of Primus), Bootsy Collins (Parliament/Funkadelic) on vocals, and DJ Phonosycographdisk. DJ Eddie Def and Max Robertson also contribute.

For more information, check out www.bucketheadland.com

"COLMA" (CyberOctave; 1998)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Buckethead, known for his plain white mask and KFC hat, lays aside his trademark weirdness for a series of well thought out songs that are squarely in ballad territory. The thirteen tracks of "COLMA" are the complete opposite of the whacked-out craziness employed on "Monsters & Robots." These quiet, reflective pieces often hide the cutting edge techniques that Buckethead is so famous for.

In a very odd, affecting, and still completely natural way, Buckethead combines playfulness and restraint to his advantage on "COLMA." Of course, these songs are all instrumentals so there are no lyrics to clutter up anything. Any instrumental greatly benefits from arrangements that highlight the song's strengths and "COLMA" does not disappoint in this aspect.

"COLMA" may be a let-down for guitar fanatics familiar with Buckethead's fretboard antics, yet music fans should enjoy "COLMA" and its offerings. "COLMA" isn't metal or even hard rock by any stretch of the imagination, but the skills and experience Buckethead gained while playing metal and hard rock are scattered in droves all over this CD.

"COLMA" was produced by Buckethead and Xtrack. The production is very clear and really makes the music shine.

Buckethead plays guitar and bass and is joined by Brain on drums and loops. DJ Disc scratches on some tracks and Bill Laswell plays bass on "Machete." Terry Untalan plays cello and viola on "Wondering" and "Lone Sal Bug."

For more information, check out www.bucketheadland.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11 Jun 2018 20:14:10 -0400 .