Seattle-based Sadhappy?s revolving personnel door spins once again to admit one-time Zappa guitarist Mike Keneally into the fold to join the rhythm section of bassist Michael Manring and drummer Evan Schiller on their fifth album, and first in nearly a decade.. Regardless of the people behind the instruments, Sadhappy have always been about funky, bottom-heavy, polyrhythmic grooves (which is natural if your sound is centered around the bass) and master blaster Manring is again front and center on tracks like the happy feet, booty call of opener ?Pretty Please? to Keneally?s trademark snappy guitar licks bouncing off the wall and bombarding your senses on all sides on ?Alicia? and ?Whale of a Tale.?
Oh, there?s still the weird, avant garde, video arcade electronic noodling on tracks like ?Aerocar vs The Sweet Tines,? and ?Abduction, Parts 1 and 2? that the more conservative listener will skip right over, but they?re usually short and sweet and over before they can inflict too much damage. Fans of the expanded ?Remain in Light?-era Talking Heads, Paul Simon?s excursions to Graceland, David Byrne?s travels to Brazil and late period Zappa during Keneally?s reign, along with other bass soloists like Mark Egan may have an easier time sorting through the avant gardish muck of such unstructured mayhem as ?Easy As Pie.? An appreciation of King Crimson?s mid (ca. ?Lizard? and ?Islands?) and late (ca. the addition of Tony Levin & Adrian Belew that turned them into Talking Heads Lite) periods will help prepare the listener for the weird absurdity of ?Aunt Myrtal Ties One On at the Starlight Lounge.? And if you?ve ever wondered what a bass raga might sound like, Manring?s solo on ?Raga? provides an intriguing answer, although I?m still partial to the traditional guitar and sitar for this format. In complete contrast to the rest of the album, the eleven minute closer ?Womb To The Tomb? is an Enoesque ambient drone that approximates the feeling of floating weightlessly in amniotic fluid or the ultimate sensory-deprivation tank, your grave!
Since Mark Sandman?s passing and Morphine?s demise, there aren?t many bass-led rock bands around these days and Manring is certainly a bass God among the cognoscenti, so as a fellow bassist I appreciate the rhythmic somersaults and creative uses he puts his instrument through to transform it into a lead instrument. So if you are looking for an alternative to sensory overload of too many overindulgent, wankoff guitar soloing, this might just be the change of pace to sooth your inner rhythmic cravings. Just be aware that the non-linear polymorphic nature of most of the tracks will be more conducive to listening and studying than actually getting out on the dancefloor and shaking your groove thang! 5/10 -- Jeff Penczak (17 July, 2006)