Aaron Brooks is the former lead singer and primary songwriter for psychedelic band Simeon Soul Charger, and this is his first solo album. His style reminds me at times of Gong, Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, and Supertramp. It’s a psychedelic blend of styles and sounds, but unfortunately for the reviewer, it’s quite the mixed bag. It includes four songs I like, six songs I love, and three songs I don’t think I’ll ever listen to again after I’m done writing this. Thus, it’s best reviewed song-by-song.
Three poor songs out of thirteen is still pretty impressive, but it doesn’t help my first impressions that two of them are at the beginning. “Bodega, Bodega” has some interesting acoustic guitar work, but unfortunately it’s a little cheesy, both musically and lyrically. “By Your Halo Or The Fork Of Your Tongue” is a significantly better song, but it sounds a bit too much like country music for my personal taste. That’s very subjective, and I’d bet somebody who reads this will love it, but it’s not for me.
The next three songs, fortunately, are AWESOME! “Consume” begins with some very creative dissonant chords that progress into a bizarre but catchy song. “Digital” is a solid song with lots of fantastic keyboard work that does a lot in a little time. It’s probably my second-favorite track on the record. “Everybody Dies” is full of menacing drum beats and heavy guitar riffage that complements the beautifully cynical lyrics perfectly. “I’m Afraid” is the catchiest song on the record, and the one that best features Brooks’ individual talents. His guitar playing is the best on the album and his lyrics are poignant and perfectly delivered. “The Idiot” is not my favorite song musically, but the witty and self-deprecating, yet melancholy, lyrics are the best on the album. These are all songs that will remain on my playlist long after I’m done reviewing this album.
The next five songs are not quite as strong, but still quite well-written. “Jesus” is the song that’s grown on me the most. It displays Brooks’ psychedelic roots in a Canterbury-scene proto-prog trip featuring lyrics dealing with skepticism and doubt accompanied by a very unusual repeated guitar riff. “Lies” is the kind of song that sounds simple at first, but on second listen, you realize there’s a lot going on! It starts off as a well-written progressive pop song with more to offer than meets the eye before shifting into a fantastic piece of psychedelic hard-rock. It sounds like it should have been on a Pink Floyd album. “Nobody Knows What It’s Like To Be Someone Else” is pure blues music. Pianist Beni Wiedemann and electric guitarist Stefan Rossinger make this song. The next track, “Wake Up The Mountain,” is the proggiest song on the album. It starts out as a piano-based ballad with a melody that reminds me of classic Genesis before shifting into a heavy finale.
The next track, “What Is A Man But An Animal’s End,” is unfortunately pretty terrible. The bridge is all right, but the majority of the song is the title, sung in falsetto, over a sample that sounds something like an elephant. I think this is the last time I will ever listen to it and I would’ve rated this album a point higher if it had been excluded. Thank Geddy, the next song is a masterpiece!
“You’re Just A Picture In A Frame” is easily the best song on the album. On merit of this song alone, you need to buy this record! It is musically a work of art, with a heartbreakingly simple melody, a masterful guitar solo, and great piano and violin playing throughout. Lyrically, it begins as a touching love song, a love letter to a partner who means a lot to the narrator, before the punchline hits-he’s talking to a picture of someone. And the arrangement! I could write an entire article just dissecting this song from a music theory perspective. You don’t want to hear that, of course, so I’ll leave it at this: It ROCKS.
Time would fail me to mention all the talented guest musicians who worked on this project, but allow me to offer kudos to pianist Beni Wiedemann, violinists Susi Salomon and Sandra Rieger, and cellist Isabel Schlegel. Wiedemann is an extremely gifted pianist, and his presence adds a very welcome touch to the album. The string section adds another layer of complexity to these very interesting songs, and often makes the songs much better!
Overall, this is a solid debut from a talented singer-songwriter. While some parts are better than others, it’s clear to me that Brooks has a great solo career ahead of him and I’m excited to see what he does next!
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