I wrote this review for iTunes, but, apparently, it was too edgy and informative, so it didn't make the cut. At least, I haven't seen it posted yet, and I've been checking every 20 minutes for three days. This being the age of self-publishing liberty, though, the power is in my hands! Take that, censorship!
Let us begin...
If any of you ever calls the Funky Knuckles a "jam band," I will hunt you. I will find you, and I will destroy you.
Unless, of course, labeling them as a "jam band" results in their becoming unfathomably popular and wealthy. Then we'll let it slide.
The Knuckles' first album, "As Of Lately," is a masterpiece. Their new album, "Meta-Musica," appears to be, somehow, an improvement. I've been listening to it for sixty-five straight hours, my headphones are causing severe abrasions around my ears, and my eyes are in scratchy agony from lack of sleep. This album is so good that it will cause you to make extremely poor decisions. "Mission accomplished," the Knuckles might say.
"But Dunge," says a reader, "these guys have super-freak fusion chops, they should be doing covers of Justin Bieber songs, not original material LOLOL!" Taking the Youtube popularity of "FunkyGospelJazzifying" terrible pop songs as your only criterion for success, that's a valid point, but the Funky Knuckles are using their considerable musical prowess to ACTUALLY MAKE SOMETHING. They're making the world a better place by bothering to compose some serious new music, and then playing it… really… really… well. This is not gratuitous shredding. This is a cohesive, beautiful work of sound-art constructed from the compositions and performances of some of the finest musicians in the world and tempered with excellent taste and a beautiful over-arching concept.
Let's talk about these goofballs for a minute.
WES STEPHENSON spends most of his time chasing people to their cars and then subsequently flipping those cars over, but he also occasionally plays bass and writes awesome tunes. If you were to put Wilt Chamberlain on Andre the Giant's shoulders, and then transform that human mass into bass-playing ability, you would start to get an idea of what Stephenson can do. Unlike Wilt or Andre, though, Wes is achingly tasteful in his playing. He just houses the fact that he can play barrages of notes in the back of his consciousness, only unleashing what feels the most awesome at the time.
I hear he also takes clients as a freelance root-substitution consultant.
BEN BOHORQUEZ wasn't on the first album because it would have violated his parole (llama smuggling is a rough business), but now that things have calmed down for him a little bit, he's able to contribute his beautiful tenor saxophone sound and utterly tasteful improvisation to the Knuckles' live shows, and, thankfully, this record. Also, the chances are nearly 100% that you've "liked" one or more of his Youtube videos sometime in the last two years, whether you realize it or not.
EVAN WEISS was similarly indisposed thanks to llama-oriented controversy for the first Knuckles record, but on "Meta-Musica" we're fortunate to hear his beautiful trumpet sound and, frankly, confusing skills. While many trumpet players with insane abilities throw them in your face to the point where the experience becomes unpleasant, Weiss tends to play so beautifully and tastefully that it'll take several minutes for the listener to realize that what he's doing SHOULDN'T BE PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE. Some say he voluntarily underwent an interspecies organ transplant in which his lungs were switched with those of a tiger. It didn't work out so well for the tiger, but it sure worked out for Evan!
CEDRIC MOORE goes through drumsticks like Snoop Lion goes through Pyrex glassware. Despite the rumors that he's on the verge of completing a double-doctorate in astrophysics and gynecology, he somehow still has time to shed more drums than any human who ever lived. ("Shed" means practice.) Whether his beats are soul-shakingly simple or brain-liquefyingly insane, every second of this human 808's playing sounds and feels like the crystallization of what funk should be. The grooves he and Stephenson construct on this record will undoubtedly be responsible for a massive population boom next year.
CALEB McCAMPBELL forgot that you're not supposed to sing on a fusion record, but after he accidentally tracked layers of beautiful, soaring vocals on "Rain Journey," the other guys probably decided they'd let it slide. Just one of those happy accidents! On top of having the second-reddest pants in the jazz-funk industry, Caleb is an expert at balancing confusingly prodigious keyboard and vocal abilities with impeccable taste, beautifully constructed synth sounds, and tons of soul in his improvisation. But, despite being one of the most brilliantly gifted and hard-working musicians of his generation, he can't do a standing back-flip.
One theory is that PHILL AELONY disappeared somewhere over the Virgin Islands on a reconnaissance mission and hasn't been seen in quite some time. The entity who wrote music and played guitar on this record and last year's Funky Knuckles shows is probably a spectral hologram created by a sympathetic vibration between Aelony's brain and several species of bioluminescent algae in the Caribbean.
Another theory is that PHILL AELONY is one of the most brilliant up-and-coming guitarists in the music business. His intensely individual composition style is matched by his unique guitar playing, and everything he writes and plays seems to serve the same grand, beautiful purpose.
This record is fantastic. You should buy it and listen to it a lot.