Tuesday, October 8, 2002 @ 1:37 PM
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Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard has very quietly become a very big influence on the current state of alternative rock/hard rock and quite the prolific songwriter to boot in the process. In the ‘80s he helmed Green River (along with PJ bassist Jeff Ament), the band that defined the oncoming Seattle grunge scene and whose breakup spawned both Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone. The Love Bone Earth affair was an entirely different beast all together. Lead by the charismatic David Lee Roth by way of Freddie Mercury stylings of superstar in the making Andrew Wood. They recorded one EP and one epic debut album before Andy died of heroin overdose, which lead to the tribute album collabo with Soundgarden called Temple of the Dog, arguably one of the best records to come out of the Seattle scene. And of course all this lead to Pearl Jam, the band that accidentally became the biggest band in the world and politely turned it down to rock on a smaller scale, like Fugazi, and make indie records on a major label. But I'll be damed if PJ didn't manage to become one of the most influential bands on the planet along the way (um, Creed, Godsmack, Hoobencrap, anyone???)
Now as the influence of all this seeps into mainstream radio rock music in the form of Creed, Godhead, and every other fucking band on the planet, Stone has been tasking away in his studio with his various side-project bands and has managed to churn out a slew of pretty great records starting with Satchel and Brad (both featuring piano man/singer/guitarist/Kevin Smith look-a-like Shawn Smith) and leading up to his recent solo debut. None of them have set the world on fire, but that’s not the point. Unlike his peers, and even his own bandmates in the Jam, Stone ain’t resting on his laurels and watching TV, he’s out there, playing and writing and recording. I defy you to name 5 other successful musicians in the current hard rock scene that are kicking out 2-3 albums a year consistently. Ya got to give him credit for that.
On Welcome To Discovery Park, Stone hooks up with buddy Smith, bassist Jeremy Toback, drummer Regan Hagar, and bunch of friends for a loose groovin’ laid back effort that stirs Elton John-like ballads (the old Elton, when he was good) and Queen-like ROCK surges into a pot full of gumbo, love and guitars. Less erratic than Pearl Jam, less flamboyant than Love Bone, Brad moves at its own pace and slithers along like a snake in the river, always moving, yet with little effort.
“Brothers and Sisters” and “Shinin” start the record on an upbeat if gentle groove, with Smith playing the role of the weary but enchanted circus ringleader, welcoming us to the show, revealing that souls will be bared, but that all is well and no one will get hurt. Smith has such a disarming voice that his mere inflections imply candor, charming you when you don’t even realize you’re being flirted with. “Oh, why, Hello.” Only Smith could get away with the amount of “La La’s” and “Hey Hey’s” that he does here, but he gets away clean and with gusto to spare. It’s all pretty thrilling, actually.
On “Drop It Down” the band get funky and dissonant all at the same time over a slacker anthem chorus. “Couch T-Bone” is a gorgeous, upbeat, ‘60s sounding ballad that could just as easily be off a Velvet Underground album as it could a Mentos commercial. It’s that poppy and brilliant and kill-yourself-catchy. I love it.
And speaking of the “L” word… Lenny Kravitz would LOVE “Never Let Each Other Down” and “Yes, You Are”… and boy do I wish Prince would write some ballads like this again. Sounds the closest to Brad’s Shame out of everything here.
But it ain’t all love and heartbreak here kiddies, oh no, there’s plenty of rock to be had. And goddamn, does “Revolution” bring the noise in a big, grand slamming Zeppelin-by-way-of-Brian-May kinda way. “Man this whole world just blows my brain away!!!” screams Smith over a guitar riff that Joe Perry would kill for these days. “La La La” is a quirky rock number that throws a touch a ‘80s new wave into a ‘60s garage rock beat that somehow sounds like an Abba meets T Rex-style rocker. Sound absolutely crazy? It is, and it works and it’ll charm your little red socks off, girlie. Meanwhile, “All Is One” is big swirling storm of apocalyptic lyrics and ‘verbed out guitar noise. The closing epic “Arrakis” is an epic prog-rock drone that recalls both Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I said that!!!
High, mighty, magic, fucked up, sad, lifting, swollen, hurt, bold, majestic, metallic…. If you listen close, it’ll bring a smile to your fat little fucking face. If you listen closer, it’ll bring a tear to that beautiful, sullen little pumpkin head of yours. So yes, Mr. Gossard can rest easy with the knowledge that he has quietly influenced a generation and still manages to fuck with your head once and awhile by way of Brad and his other non-Pearl Jam pets. Must be nice...
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