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The re-formed 5UU's first CD, featuring, one-of-a-kind drummer Dave Kerman with new line-up- Sanjay Kumar (keyboards) and Bob Drake (Bass, Guitar, Vocals) and guests Susanne Lewis, Tom Dimuzio, and James Grigsby. Power, complexity and intelligence - an express train that can pirouette on a dime.
Imagine Jon Anderson fronting an American avant-garde rock group (but maybe he did get close to the edge on parts of Tales and Relayer!). Hunger's Teeth is the most exciting rock album I've heard this year. No, not Anderson exactly, but Robert Drake's vocals do bear a striking resemblance to the Yes man's "angelic" tenor. Is this "progressive rock" for the '90's? A celebration of intricately layered arrangements and polyrhythmic playing, effortlessly combining '70's grandeur with avant-rock, contemporary collage and computing - and only one track in 11 over six minutes! The musicianship (also David Kerman and Sanjay Kumar, plus guests) is superb, not showy, always at the service of the experimental approach to song structure - lots of convoluted instrumental passages that return almost miraculously to "refrains". Brilliant. --Chris Blackford, Rubberneck
This album wasn't produced until 1994, making an eight-year gap since Elements. The band had, in the mean time, participated in the avant supergroup U Totem which was formed out of members of 5UU's and Motor Totemist's Guild. One positive change made in the time off is the bringing in of Bob Drake as the new lead vocalist. While his voice can superficially be compared to Jon Anderson of Yes, he does a better job of conveying the creepier aspects of songs like Roan and Well... Not Chickenshit. Susanne Lewis (Thinking Plague, Hail) also contributes some vocals to this release. Another helpful addition to the sound is that of guesting electronics fiend and musique-concrète beast Thomas DiMuzio. DiMuzio contributes various effects throughout, but most valuable is his mind-bending Mangate, a minimalist journey through tape effects. Rounding out the line-up are Kerman and Kumar, giving their most powerful performances to date. Compared to earlier efforts, everything takes a large step forward here. The melodies, the production, the lyrics, the vocals, the variety of sounds used and how effectively they are used, the tightness of the compositions... honestly, everything. Some might find this a bit over-produced compared to the earlier material, but I personally don't find it overly glossy. This is one of the most accessible avant-progressive albums I've ever encountered, without sacrificing any of the goods. Material ranges from pure experimentation to ironic song-oriented material to twisted barbershop quartet and more. I would love to say more, but the fact that it is one of my favorite recordings takes away much of my willingness to dissect it. All I will say is that repeated listenings really will reap a pleasant harvest; I am still finding little hidden goodies in the impossibly dense arrangements. If there is such a thing as magic, it is surely present here. --Sean McFee, Gnosis
Ever wonder what some of the classic progressive bands would sound like today had they maintained their edge and not grown lazy and comfortable and become caricatures of themselves ? Enter the 5UU's. Take the experimental rock spirit, add some influences in varying combinations from Henry Cow, Frank Zappa, Yes, The Beatles and Gentle Giant, mix it all together and send it into overdrive, and you might have some idea of where these guys are going. Their music is a constantly changing stream of ideas, very complex, with irregular time sigs and liberal use of disonnance within their melodic framework - yet it's all fairly accessible too, tied together by Bob Drake's Jon Anderson-like vocals. Even those already familiar with the band on their early releases Bel Marduk & Tiamat and Elements may be in for a surprise here as well, as this is a major step forward for them. A trio of Sanjay Kumar (keys), David Kerman (drums,guitar,keys) and Bob Drake (vocals,bass,guitars,violin), Thomas DiMuzio is also credited with "electronic and computer generated sounds" and is responsible for some of the more experimental moments on the disc. Kumar and Kerman were both members of previous 5UU's incarnations, as well as U-Totem, and Drake was a member of Thinking Plague and Hail. Guesting on selected tracks are Suzanne Lewis (also of TP and Hail), James Grigsby (of U-Totem), and Michelle Bos. If you've ever wanted one disc that you could listen to over and over, and discover something new each time, this is it ! From the first notes of "Well, Not Chickenshit," through the experimental voice treatments on "Mangate," the mysterious cadence in "Geronimo," an out-of-place barber shop quartet on "The Shears," the Zappa-esque opening riff of "Bachelor Needle," Suzanne's vocal on "Equus," right out to the twisted and abrupt ending of "Traveler Waits For No One," this is an album that will demand repeated listenings. Hunger's Teeth gets my highest recommendation, and will definitely be among my --Peter Thelan, Expose
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The music? It's outstanding. Throw it in the RIO 'category' or the avant-rock profile: it is _rock_, basically, but the music is thoroughly composed, full of atonal harmonic language, Eastern European modality, off-the-wall time signatures, and strange percussions. Yet for all its complexity and avant-garde inclinations, the music is energetic and catchy, and immediately likable without any cost to its long-term appeal. Bob Drake's voice _does_ sound a little bit like Jon Anderson's, especially on the higher notes, but it should be noted that they barely sing alike. The wonderful Susanne Lewis sings the last two songs, the mysterious "Equus" and catchy math-rock of "Traveler Waits for No One" (just try and notate that one correctly...). "Well...,Not Chickensh*t" is the catchy opener, with tricky time-signatures (17/16, 17/16, 18/16, 17/16 on the main riff), raving vocals, spine-cracking bass lines, a scored percussion solo (filled out with a slide whistle), and a guitar solo that defines the term BATTLE DAMAGE. "Glue" is an aggressive rock song with a disorienting mix (although that might not mean what you think), powered by a fat rhythm and smoking electronic organ. "Truth, Justice and the American Way" is a tribute to one of Kerman's personal heroes, Paul Robeson, with an ominous, rumbling opening, some drunken spiky atonal piano playing, and catchy vocal counterpoints. "Traveler Waits for No One" is extremely tight and complex, but Susanne Lewis' wonderful, feisty vocals make it catchy too. "Geronimo" is a powerful piece builds on quiet vocals, percussion, and keys into a grumbling (yet fully composed) noise onslaught. "Equus" is written around a Tom DiMuzio electronic piece, with subtle motivic progression, atonal eeriness, and a slow, splintered odd-meter middle section where Dave Kerman's drumming shines. There are two oddities that add some diversity. "Mangate" is Tom DiMuzio's excellent piece for tape. "The Sheers" is a twisted barbershop quartet done by Bob Drake, complete with creepy lyrics and the sounds of a squeaky door, snipping scissors, and evil sounding electronics (or something). I guess my one complaint is that Susanne Lewis' songs are back-loaded as the last and second-last songs on the disc, when it might have been better to mix them up (although I usually listen to my cds on "shuffle" so it's not a big deal to me).
If you're looking for what happens to rock with some extra compositional sophistication musicality, and imagination, you should give this album a try. It is truly excellent, and I highly recommend it. Note that this is the Kerman/Drake/Kumar 5uu's, the second incarnation of the band. The band's first two albums, _Bel Marduk & Tiamat_ and _Elements_ are available on the Cuneiform two-fer, _Point of Views_ (it also features some extra stuff). The last two 5uu's albums, _Regarding Purgatories_ and _Abandonship_, are under "Dave Kerman/5uu's", where Kerman takes on most of the instrumental roles himself (with Thinking Plague's Deborah Perry on vocals) and the compositions are long, complex, and elaborate, and less song-based. But for an introduction, this is an excellent choice. I really dig this album.
While there are only three official members of 5uu's during this period, there are several guest musicians. Most importantly, there is Thomas DiMuzio (electric and computer generated sounds) who contributes to the entire album, but also is responsible for track 3 as a solo performance. In addition there are: Susanne Lewis (vocals on tracks 10 & 11), James Grigsby (guitar solo, vibes on track 1, bass on half of track 8), Michelle Bos (utensils, penny fountain, skydiving ocarinas on track 4, metal tables, creaks on track 9, and blue rocks on track 10).
As with their previous recordings, 5uu's remains highly experimental and avant-garde, and while this is probably their most accessible album for those unfamiliar with the group, you will not find any tracks which would be considered standard fare. This is my favorite of all the 5uu's albums. It offers something new with each playing, and while the follow up "Crisis in Clay" has the same lineup and is also quite good, "Hunger's Teeth" is to me just a slight bit better. The highlights of this album change with each listen for me, so currently I would say they are: "Well...Not Chickensh*t", "Roan", "Geronimo", "Glue", "Opportunity Bangs", and "Equus", but shorter pieces such as "The Shears" have something to offer as well.
Not everyone will like this music. Probably only about 5% of you reading this will think it is any good at all, frankly. When you consider buying this cd, answer yourself these questions:
Do you like Gentle Giant, but wish they were much more atonal and bold sounding?
Do you think the best Yes album was Tales From Topographic Oceans?
Hmm there are probably some more questions you should ask yourself. 5uu's is part of a movement in rock called "Rock in Opposition," which apparently does not care for ay kind of commercially redeeming convention, and is determined to rub it into your face.
If you like having that sort of thing rubbed in your face, as I apparently do, then be like me and try to buy Hunger's Teeth somewhere. I only have a borrowed copy myself. Meanwhile, go buy the similar album "Crisis in Clay," also by 5uu's, which is available.