The Great Escape Artist
17 October 2011
by Dan Pelic
When asked to review The Great Escape Artist, I was also offered the supposed real reason for the band’s last-minute cancellation at Reading — Dave Navarro’s horror in taking the stage to a near-empty tent while the sonic atrocity that is The Strokes were performing on the main stage. Apparently, right then and there, Mr Perry Farrell’s vocal cords decided to give way not only for that evening, but their subsequent performance at Leeds. *sniff sniff*
I guess we’re obliged to forgive them since they’re rock stars?
Plausible rumours aside, the band makes up for their delicate egos and ailing laryngeal health by delivering quite the relative, decent album over two decades since their first manifestation, 1988’s, Nothing’s Shocking.
For an album that suffered a personnel change during its production, The Great Escape Artist is an impressively cohesive piece of music. Farrell labelled it a “loose” concept album. Then again, Perry Farrell says a lot of things. The only thing I notice here is a musical meeting of the minds.
When the punk-ishly rambunctious ‘Words Right Out Of My Mouth’ was written, bass duties were being handled by Duff McKagan, who also contributed to writing the tune as well as ‘Broken People’ and ‘Ultimate Reason’.
McKagan (apparently too rock ‘n’ roll) and the band soon parted ways. TV On The Radio’s, Dave Sitek, was brought in to kick-start a stalled creative process (he is not, however, a touring member) and meshed quite well with the band and producer, Rich Costey, on the remaining seven, notably more atmospheric songs.
Costey’s previous work with bands like Muse comes forth in giving the album a cosmically textural sound on songs such as lead single, ‘Irresistible Force (Met The Immovable Object)’ and ‘Twisted Tales’.
Some of Navarro’s guitar riffs and Stephen Perkins’ comparatively aggressive drumming might have been a bit much among the more relaxed songs of the album. Yet, tasteful individual performances and some stylishly sensible mixing pull it all together in resonance.
A smart, multi-faceted LP — the efficiently communicative elements of The Great Escape Artist work collectively to give us something a bit denser than your garden-variety alternative rock album — especially one by a band still looking over their shoulders at their heyday.
Sounds like: The Pixies, Muse, U2
Top tracks: Underground, Irresistible Force (Met The Immovable Object), Twisted Tales, Words Right Out Of My Mouth