CD Reviews The Aristocrats - Culture Clash Live

Published on 17th January 2015

The Aristocrats – Culture Clash Live!


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The champions of the squeaky toy animal solo are back with a record of some of their live shows performed all around the globe in 2014. An early highlight of last year was getting the chance to see The Aristocrats play, a show in Bristol that you can read the TPA review of Here. Now, nearly a year on we get the live album with accompanying DVD and what an enjoyable offering it is.

The set is beautifully packaged and gives a great overview of what the trio are all about. And what a trio they are; you really can’t get much more skillful than Messrs Govan, Minnemann and Beller. Each member contributes greatly to their respective outside projects but when they come together they feed off each other and raise their game to new heights, the results being not only stunning to listen to but great fun.

It is appropriate for a band named after a classic dirty joke to be so obscenely talented but the band refrain from showing off for the sake of it. They shred where required but there is always a point to it and soloing doesn’t go on and on to the detriment of the music. In fact the only real solo spot is Marco Minnemann’s drum solo on the DVD. Drum solos, love ’em or hate ’em, have a place and Marco’s is one of the best I’ve seen, the intricacies of his work simply extraordinary and supremely watchable. The effect is lifted as an extra on the DVD where his solo from the Tokyo show is captured via eight cameras allowing for a split-screen presentation that shows the awesome skills of one of world’s best rock drummers. His footwork is also included from a couple of different angles which is also great to see and the whole thing is very entertaining. To top it off he successfully displays his human side by dropping a stick – but he probably meant to do that to make us feel less inadequate!

All three players match each other stride for stride: Guthrie Govan is one of the most fluid and precise guitarists I’ve ever had the pleasure to see play, his choices are entertaining whilst still defying both logic and physics. I’ve seen him play in a few different situations and he never fails to impress but here he is completely at home and free to play what he wants. Bryan Beller also has an outstanding pedigree and the variety of styles that he pulls off with micron-perfect technique is just stunning. His playing is always completely absorbing but he also manages to add the funk that keeps the music bouncing. Beller is nominally the front man but all three chip in and bounce off each other and you just know that they are having as much fun as – and probably more than – the audience.

I’ve always enjoyed the music The Aristocrats produce but getting to see them perform it live certainly helped all of the parts fit together and this set is just a blast. Complex instrumental music can often be a rather clinical experience, the listener marvelling at the technique and appreciating the dexterity without getting much in the way of emotional involvement. The Aristocrats cut a very different path, their obvious enthusiasm for playing together coupled with a wicked sense of fun. The material is at times funky and stomping, at others hard and heavy whilst filtering blues and jazz sensibilities but above all focusing on melody at all times. The results can’t help but make you smile and live is where the magic really happens.

With the writing split pretty evenly between the three players, each piece being a solo composition, the music covers a lot of ground and doesn’t rest for too long in any one place, keeping the listening enthralled and on the edge of his seat regarding what is coming next. There really is no way to exhaustively categorise what these guys do. They have room within each song to spread out and try new stuff and as a result highlights are too many to mention. The brilliantly titled Sweaty Knockers kicks off the CD with Guthrie immediately slicing the top of your head off with his otherworldly speed. Get It Like That features a quick burst of the Beverley Hills Cop soundtrack whilst leaving enough room for squeaky pig and chicken soloing, in fact none of the song choices are a let down in any way and the momentum is maintained throughout in a supremely fun listen/watch that continually grabs the attention. Whilst six tracks feature on both CD and DVD only three are the same performances so they have managed to cram in plenty of variety and the performances evolve from one date to the next.

The DVD includes more of the between song banter which is a big part of their act while the CD concentrates on the music so as a package it gives a great all round view of what the band do in a live setting. The sound is pristine and the visuals spot on. The Tokyo show was filmed with a massive 20 camera set-up allowing for some great angles and the aforementioned split-screen elements. You get shows filmed in a variety of halls both large and small, the intimacy of the latter really shining through whilst the larger stages allow the band to show that they really are a world class act capable of pulling off their show anywhere. There are no prima donnas here and the down to earth nature is apparent at all times. I’m sure they know how good they are but you don’t get the impression that they are out to impress. I’m sure that the show would be the same if the hall was empty and that is the key: they are doing this for their own enjoyment and if anyone else wants to come along for the ride they are more than welcome.

Although listed as a bonus, the DVD is integral to the success of this set, the 100 minute performance feature covering shows from Tokyo, Bangkok, Mexico City, Zoetermeer and Manchester. The highlight of the extras is Marco’s multi-camera drum solo as mentioned above but you also get a talk through of the camera angles for the Tokyo shoot, which are all very impressive and add to the excitement, plus audio only demos of three songs from the Culture Clash album which are raw with loads of energy. There is also an unreleased demo track called Car Salesmen In Hell with commentary from Marco which is an interesting addition although you wouldn’t play it that often. The main features are what keeps this set cooking. The CD has been on rotation in the car whilst the DVD is a fixture at home. Just playing it lifts the energy after a hard day at the office and the off-kilter melodies swing through my head regularly. Even my one-year-old granddaughter enjoyed dancing to this crazy music much to the amusement of those present!

All in all a great release that keeps fun at the forefront and makes me smile a lot. Excellent work and here’s to more of the same in 2015 and beyond.

TRACK LISTING – CD
01. Sweaty Knockers (8:49)
02. Ohhhh Noooo (7:44)
03. Get It Like That (9:44)
04. Culture Clash (7:58)
05. Gaping Head Wound (6:29)
06. Louisville Stomp (5:20)
07. Desert Tornado (5:42)
08. Living the Dream (8:22)

TRACK LISTING – DVD
01. Furtive Jack
02. Ohhhh Noooo
03. Louisville Stomp
04. Get It Like That
05. Culture Clash
06. Blues Fuckers
07. Gaping Head Wound
08. Desert Tornado
09. Living the Dream

DVD EXTRAS:

– Tokyo Drum Solo – split screen and multi angle
– Gaping Head Wound (demo)
– Living The Dream (demo)
– Dance Of The Aristocrats (demo)
– Car Salesmen In Hell (unreleased song demo) with Marco Minnemann commentary
– Tokyo video setup

Total Time – approx 130:00

MUSICIANS
Guthrie Govan – Guitars
Marco Minnemann – Drums
Bryan Beller – Bass

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Boing! Music
Catalogue#: BM00005
Year Of Release: 2015

LINKS
Website: The Aristocrats
Social Media: Facebook | Twitter

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