Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cube - ST (album review)

Listen, I do it, you do it, we all do it.  I think I had the same reaction as a lot of other people did upon seeing this album cover.  I judged it.  I judged this album by its cover.  I admit it.  It looks like it would be post-Radiohead, electronica influenced ... stuff that I'm not into.  What you get, however, is a damn funky collection of grunge inflected stoner rock.

Opening track "Drive" sets a high standard for the rest of the album to follow with its 70s inspired rolling riff that gives way to a heavy funk rhythm and stonerisms.  The chorus treats listeners to a glimpse of Tool inspired syncopation and aggression.  As a middle 8 section the band goes off on an impressive space / desert rock tangent.  One song in and the band has displayed an impressive array of styles and skill.  This song is what the band is all about and is the perfect preview for what the rest of the album is like.  But you won't want to stop there.  "Charge" feedbacks into a Kim Thayil style riff, grooving through the verse into a tough funk workout in the chorus and keeps building up, the band moving from strength to strength, bitter lyrics and a tasteful use of double kick ups the excitement factor continuously.  "Perfect Monkey" takes the stonerisms and heavy accent on funk and kicks it into warp drive.

"Mass Confusion" finds the band expanding on the album's sonic foundations, carefully laid in the first three tracks.  Breaking down and building back up when the time is right, then veering off into unexplored territory.  It's an adventurous song that begins to show more signs of progressive leanings via Undertow / Aenima era Tool.  A riff rings off serenely while tortured multi-tracked vocals cry out hopelessly in the distance.  The bass sound of Cube's Gaz Thre is particularly akin to that of Justin Chancellor and Flea when the time comes, it's a woody, oaken sound.  "Mass Confusion" is a darker side of the band that also shows expression in the aptly titled follow-up track "Noir".  Though not as experimental as the previous track, the band finds the darker side with lower tones and slower rhythms.

"Oblique" takes references of early era Tool hinted at in "Mass Confusion" and expands upon them.  Syncopated rhythms, bass as lead, wispy guitar wailing away in the ether, tom heavy pounding beats paint a very progressive picture.  With their pedigree in funk Cube does the progressive thing naturally, they do it succinctly and they do it well.  By the time the song finishes you wish they had done more like this one.

If there were any lingering doubt whatsoever about a Red Hot Chili Peppers influence, those doubts are squashed by the unexpectedly epic "Grooves From Outer Space", with the band's use of funky wah guitars and slap bass the RHCP point of reference seems blatant, but this may just be due to this writer's ignorance.  I've heard Led Zeppelin do the same kind of thing, too, you know.  Cube describe themselves as a funk band and the label comes across no clearer than in this one.  There is a surprise though, as the last half of the six minute track is more suited musically to the song's title.  It's a complete turn around in sound and atmosphere and it could almost be two different tracks.  The transition into the next and final song, "Sleep Away", however, is necessary to maintain a strong flow to the album and to not have "Grooves..." isolated stylistically, which would make the song a veritable sore thumb.  The transition then is perfectly executed.  "Sleep" is a musical companion to "Noir" in the darker state of the band, something they do very well.

Cube's self-titled album makes a loud and often angry and politically charged statement, a reflection of the current state of their home as they see it.  Greece is going through hard times which seem to have no end in sight, but they say hard times breed good music and in this case, that adage certainly holds true.

Highlights include: "Charge" and "Perfect Monkey"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 43:52

From: Athens, Greece

Genre: Stoner, Funk, Grunge

Reminds me of: Black Rainbows, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundcrawler, Soundgarden, early Tool

Release Date: June 30, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: the soundtrack to the life and times of Captain James T. Kirk, at various times funky, aggressive and spaced out.

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