CONVERGENCE ALERT! ADRIAN BELEW JOINS WITH POLICE DRUMMER STEWART COPELAND AND LEVEL 42 BASSIST MARK KING TO FORM THE SUPERGROUP OF ALL TIME, GIZMODROME!!

What happens when a goofball drummer joins a funkoslap bass player, a happy-go-lucky noisemaker guitarist, and a virtuoso keyboardist? Gizmodrome! Photo courtesy Gizmodrome and the internet.

You hear me going on about convergence all the time. This artist I like works with that artist I like. Convergence. Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel, the artist who will no longer be named in this column and The Residents, Robert Fripp and Daryl Hall, Talking Heads and Eno, Eno and Devo, Fripp and Bowie, Bowie and the guitarist who is a member in this most unusual band we are about to review, Adrian Belew and if you want circular closure, Adrian Belew and Laurie Anderson.

Slap bassist extraordinaire Mark King has had his unique sound in every household guaranteed. If someone can honestly tell me they haven’t heard the song “Something About You” before, they are either VERY old (and I’m 55, so I know old) or live under a rock. King is one of those ‘taught-myself-how-to-make-a-living-at-this-thing’, type of players. Sophisticated playing with an innovative knack. I could go on about his co-collaborators outside Level 42, but this will be long enough.

The one member I know little about it Vittorio Cosma. He is the host of the band, in Italy. Italy is key to this band’s story as Copeland used the Italian backdrop to lure Belew to compliment the existing band Gizmo. King had opened for The Police back in the day, so Copeland recruited him and with those additions, the band Gizmodrome was born!

The content of this album is part participatory jam, part rehash on Copeland’s part. On the Gizmodrome album, there is a track “Stay Ready” that Copeland and co. reworked into a strange sort of spoken word diatribe with Copeland taking the role as front man telling his stories in that lanky vocal style that he perfected under the moniker Klark Kent. I have not listened to the Gizmodrome album as of writing this, so I can only preface that with what I have seen on the internet. I did see a live performance of “Amaka Pipa” and was amused that Copeland spent a lot of time at the frontman’s mic, and would sit in with another drummer when vocals or distorted Strat parts aren’t needed. For the life of me I can’t find out what that drummer’s name is. He would have to be good to play Copeland’s recorded parts.

Speaking of the Klark Kent thing, I need to make a point of it. You see, not a lot of people realize that many catchy Police melodies, riffs or chord patterns were written by Copeland. Often times, Copeland’s contributions to the Police got the Sumner treatment and he got frozen out of the fame department. But that’s OK, Copeland more than made up for it with things like Klark Kent and the album Collected Works which is where “Stay Ready” comes from. Most likely they plumbed the depths of Klark Kent for some content for Copeland to ramble over.

The illusive Klark Kent EP. Later converted to a full album called Collected Works. Photo courtesy of Bing.

For you first time readers, you have seen the picture of Adrian Belew giving me the what-for in the picture in my header photo. I got off on the wrong track with Belew, through incorrect information I received from a deviant in one of the camps (I can’t say whose, but it was not Belew’s). Shortly before that photo was taken, I publicly apologized to Belew at a meet and greet in front of all in the room.

He was right, I was wrong. I owned it. We’re good now. In fact, I am derelict in my duties purchasing Belew’s most recent and current work Flux, he has three volumes and I have bought none. That will have to end.

Because Belew has been a lifelong influence on me the musician. My meager attempts to impersonate him on guitar got me my biggest gig, going out with a local band near where I eventually retired. So much of an influence I modified a 1977 (my luthier Jack Gretz corrected what a former luthier had misinformed me) Fender Mustang by painting it like a test pattern for a TV screen, you know, the color bars, and a guitar synth pickup with guitar synth, THAT’s how much of an influence he was. Yeah, there was the artist who will not be named in this forum, I originally bought the guitar to keep up with what he was using at the time. Then I found Ade via King Crimson (still think it’s funny that I had been hearing Belew on Frank Zappa’s Sheik Yerbouti which is a FANTASTIC album, but didn’t make the connection right away) and all bets were off. What a new, fresh sound Crimson’s Three Of A Perfect Pair album had. My first four CDs I bought along with my first player were Laurie Anderson Big Science and Mr. Heartbreak (ton’s O’ great Belew there) and King Crimson’s TOAPP and Beat.

I was lousy with Belew to learn.

The same with Stewart Copeland. I can take a picture of my well worn (in dire need of replacing, but since my rep in the area is ‘the guitar synth guy’, priorities first) Copeland signature sticks from Vater, and my list to buy includes his signature Blue Bell ride by Paiste. I need to wait for a used sale market to arise as they are pricey as hell.

So for me? I am drooling over this new disc. Two of my all-time favorite musicians on my two main instruments (I have played with bands playing bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, lead vocals) guitar and drums in one band! Add in a virtuoso keyboardist in Cosma and I envision guitar and keyboard duals a’ la the four man Utopia with Roger Powell vs. the artist who will no longer be named in this column…  Then culminate the co-anchor of the band King to add a second (at times a third) percussive element into this band!!

As my faithful readers (I will allow time for laughter here) will know, lately I have been craving NEW music. Outside of tried and true bands like Queens Of The Stone Age (I ain’t lovin’ their new album and Josh Homme’s post Iggy ignorance) and Foo Fighters (FRESH POTS), the pickin’s are slim for a guy looking for musical adventure outside the fast-and-precise style of bands like Dream Theater, so on. In fact, one of my adventures is delving into one of Belew’s cohorts in the Cincinnati area, a band called Psychodots. I have their live album (they are the Bears minus Belew) and they rock and have some of the darkest senses of humor I have yet to see. Don’t worry, they will be featured in the blog at some point (I am SO backed up). Right now I have yet to hear their first album which is the one I bought. I am familiar with some of the songs from the live album Live At Ripley’s. You can check out some solo albums by two of the band members Chris Arduser and Rob Fetters. Search their names in the blog and you can read reviews of their solo albums there.

That’s another element with convergence; the ‘degrees of separation’ you can spiral off towards. How the hell did I get from Gizmodrome to Psychodots. They both Do have killer cool band names… Better than Foo Fighters claims Dave Grohl!

I better get to the disc before I spiral off elsewhere…

And with a couple of snare and bass hits, we’re off into “Zombies In The Mall”. This is a good leadoff track as it displays the lighthearted off-kilter humor of the band. A snappy Belew lick comes in and the next thing you know horns? OK! I know Steward has a bunch of horns around the Sacred Grove, so nothing is off limits. With that in mind, I should address many of the lyrics throughout the disc. You see, all the way back to (at least as far as I have gone, I smell Curved Air discs in my future, still love Ayers/Kristina’s MASK project…) those early Police albums, phrases that may or may not mean something have been common with Copeland (not to mention those album titles). So a lot of what you are hearing may sound like jibberish, but it’s not. Fortunately for both of us, the lyrics are contained so I am not getting into the lyrical meanings, you can read along when you buy the disc. BUY THE DISC!

Now the vocals are credited to Gizmodrome because for some reason, Stewart is bashful about being the front person.

Really? After all those years in Gordon’s shadow?

I say fuck that. I have loved Copeland’s croon since the KK album came out (and yes, I will refer to the Kollected Works as KKKW). Actually, hanging around King and Belew, Copeland is handling more melodies and injecting more style into the song than ever before.

Between verses modulating, there are horn breaks, then a Belew solo. You’re gonna hear me say that a lot here. There’s tons of ’em. Tasty ones, all through the album. The rhythm splits into a break for the solo then back to a verse line. The dynamic builds to the point where you think the song will fade,  but no! More solos, more choruses… Until those last two verses are quiet with a nice acoustic guitar peppered over the track. King interjects some bass solo.

Oh, and as far as Copeland’s drumming, just think of the entire song as one long Copeland solo. The licks are so tasty you swear they’re new every time you hear ’em! Copeland’s drumming brings this to an abrupt stop. No fade out. No cherry Icee. Only blue.

The next track is a familiar one. I first heard it when I got the KKKW disc. About an interplanetary traveler trained to sleep in his shoes (as Chris Arduser once said). The track is called “Stay Ready”. So stay ready…

Some Belew sustain and more tribal sounding drums on this track. Cosma adds some lovely flute countermelody. That guy is GOOD! Since my number one, all time favoritest keyboardist has officially, 100% retired from music (the rumors I hear are arthritis in the hands, deafness, geez, put the guy in a grave will ya?) Vittorio Cosma is real close to being the fave in town! Shove Gil up yer Assayas!

But having more than some drums and guitars and a computer midi device, this take on “Stay Ready” is more battle ready, instead of one lone traveler, we have four adventurers scoping out new planets. The beep codes, Belew’s reversed delayed sonar-like squeals, and King? Oh man, Copeland used synth/sample bass on this track originally. Which means you can do insane things with it. Twenty Tony Levins if you want. Leave it to King to up the ante with some uber-terrific lines for this track.

When they break into the chorus, it is fascinating to hear that Copeland Trademark vocal, with one of the lead vocalists for King Crimson, the lead vocalist for Level 42, singing backup to Copeland! That’s almost as absurd as Copeland acquiescing to Gordon!!! As far as the band, the chorus is one opportunity to rock out.

That’s something else you need to watch for. Abandon all hope of anticipating the direction the band will go in.

Verse two has Belew augmenting the lyrical idea, bird sounds for weird birds, weird sounds for weird tea.

When they do the changeup, ‘Whole new planet on my screen…’, the band have rewritten it for the most part. It’s a little more cohesive than the demo. Kind of a break down. With some wild west guitar (could have been played by either Belew or Copeland, he whips out a Strat in the live performances) with Belew further augmenting the lyric ‘1000 feet to zero’, by dive bombing his tremolo downward though the entire line.

I love this shit and were only two tunes in, and one I heard in a different form. At the end I get more divebombs and more wild west guitar. When the west is over, Belew super solos over it all. It brings back memories of the 1980’s King Crimson. Ahh… those were the days. Then he reverts back further with some Zappa (c) pick hammer-ons. The ending is where I might get close to that keyboard/guitar duel I was talking about.

Shoulda been a cowboy…

Like I said, expect anything as “Man In The Mountain” starts out very reggae. Oh boy… This is as steady a beat as Copeland will hold. The distorted vocal really makes Copeland’s vocalizations shine! But then this chorus comes in and you can tell it was all King all day. I had no idea he was such the driving force behind that band. May have to check out some Level 42… But the chorus line is hilarious, and King’s wall of vocals really sells it. If you want to know what that line is BUY THE DISC! Cosma’s really warm electric piano is the star under Kings vocals.

Next time around the hilarious chorus has samples of a car starting, a horse whinnying, then they break into a solo section. Then the chorus modulates and changes melody and lyric for the chorus while Cosma scrambles across the sound field. When the vocal returns, the band are letting it all out and again, they change the chorus up for the last time around.

This is where the slow fade comes in with some horns added.

The creativity those summers in Italy must have yielded. Oh, speaking of that? They also put out an instrumental disc called Riff Tracks. It’s an EP so I’m not sure it would play well to review an EP with no lyrics as these are just blueprints to the songs.

Well that Italy ‘vacation’ as Belew chuckled it, yielded the band’s ‘single’ “Summer’s Coming”. A nylon string Belew part with some Cosma flavor and Copeland adding those classic high-hat strokes gently intro the idea of taking a week off, where to go, what to see. The verse gets fleshed out with some delay electric guitar notes sprinkled in.

When the next verse starts, so does King. While the rhythm track is quiet, King’s bass adds some pop to some of the quieter spots right before the chorus where Belew and King sound phenomenal singing together! …to back up Klark Kent… The chorus grows and adds instruments. But that quiets down right quick as we go from a background solo to Copeland’s vocal rant. Well it’s at this point I gotta say what the fuck… Either I listened to too much Post Pop Depression (it was done with guys from Queens Of The Stone Age, so yeah, too much) or Copeland is a big Iggy Pop fan because when the line ‘I’m just looking for Babylon’, it would fit into …Depression like it was made for it! Hey, we all have our influences.

The cascading vocals towards the end as he recalls the line “Bombs away in old Bombay” as the chorus winds us down to the end.

Jangly percussion (don’t think I’ve ever said that) starts “Sweet Angels (Rule The World)” which is basically about women. A nostalgic sound in the guitar as I flash back to those first two Belew solo albums Lone Rhino and Twang Bar King. How I played to those albums over and over.

A bombast leads into the large chorus of the title, it’s these big, King and Belew-heavy backing vocals and chorus hooks could deem this a commercially viable work. I’ll leave more time for laughter here. The bass bounces between two notes. Sometimes the best note is the note not played.

There is a center break which features the backing wall of vocals. The next verse is quite sparse. Belew and Cosma lightly adorn the verse as King now leads on bass. Cosma punctuates some piano notes here and there, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Copeland has just confessed to a fetish that, well, never mind…

The last chorus lines lead to a free-for-all change. King takes the lead and Belew hangs back on distorted guitar then into one of his barnburner solos. Then Cosma takes the lead to a piano break and Belew let’s the air out of the end of the track.

We’re gonna go through this one quick. “Amaka Pipa” is the track I caught on video. I wanted to know how Copeland was going to handle vocals and drumming. They get a sit-in player and Copeland joins in at parts when he isn’t fronting. In this case, Copeland backs up Belew (who co-wrote the music) on guitar. I won’t decipher these lyrics as they are written and sung in phonetic speak. ‘Amaka pipa’ translates to American people… I guess.

Tribal drums start off the tune which is supplied with a totally Belew riff. As verse one runs through, the bass starts to really wail. Belew backs off for the verse, the bridge is big with organ, then the chorus quiets out for stacked vocals and caveman breaks. Cosma will play a phrase, then Belew and King reply with a really tasty lick in unison.

All the while Kent is proselytizing about how Amaka pipa want to ditch the govami and get them off their backs… By the way, the lyrics in the packaging for this song are all written in that Copelanguage.

There is a section called ‘Insta Brek’ and when the verse comes back from that, Belew has added a new riff. Then into a solar Katah Solo!! Cosma intrudes and brings the dynamic down with the organ riff and spin. Another lead bass verse, and at this point I have no idea what Copeland is saying, thank gawd that Belew riff comes back into a solo because I thought I was losing my mind! But along with the solo that mutate, Cosma builds and builds with keyboard after keyboard until it just ends on one of Belew’s screech notes.

To get my head right, a closer version of “Strange Things Happen”, also from KKKW. Sure the keys are different, and Belew adds mega guitar of course, but King pretty much stays the course on bass. When they get to the mid section break, it gets different with Belew’s take on guitar and Cosma adorning, sprinkling, embellishing, all of it. They took a really cool song and made it better.

Belew is not afraid to make riffs his own, and put his spin on it. The “Whatever happens on the road…” end section is new and lead by King’s vocals.

This next track starts off with two guitars, the distorted one playing the riff could be Belew, could be Copeland. Live it will be interesting to see if they do this and how it is handled. It’s a rite of passage sort of song. Basically about getting out and learning to take the risks, take the shot, to “Ride Your Life”. Co-written with King, the riff continues with bass accompanying. Verse one is about chucking and fucking yer blues. A Belew solo intros the next verse, but then Cosma breaks the mood again with ethereal piano and the song cuts back to some intermittent drum notes and a Belew loop with delicate keyboard floating around the verse. As the second stanza of that verse comes out, Belew lays on the notes. Those notes continue into and rejoin the chorus three times.

They just let those loop notes continue into the next verse. The chorus line has changed from “… or you’ll be calling your mama tonight” to “…as if angels are coming tonight”. This turns into a change lead for Belew to do his crafted tremolo-bar-behind-the-bridge-pull-and-release technique. As the brutish batter for the Yankees said to Charlie Sheen the hapless pitcher for the Cleveland Indians in the film Major League, ‘I got your timing now’. I do that trick on my Kahler tremolo all the time…

But Belew pulls out a lot from his bag of tricks and then picks up his toys for a break-down. Guitar is featured as the break picks up but we know who played which guitar on this part as there is only one guitarist who sounds like that. Sorry Stewart… The chorus repeats but the first two times are the ‘angel’ choruses, the last time is ‘calling your mama’, then two ‘ride your life’ lines ending on the second.

“Subatta Cheve” I dunno. The music track reminds me of Talking Heads, could be a Quaalude version of “I Zimbra” from Remain In Light. But the lyrics, I dunno, could be Italian, could be Copelanguage, I dunno. Already the title reeks as if it were a didn’t make the cut Police album title. Yet here we are…

There is an African instrument, I have yet in my life to identify ever since I heard it from Paul Simon’s “Me And Julio Down By The School Yard”. THAT sound. There is a guest credit for Elio, so I guess he’s the vocalist who can speak fluent Italian. No offense, and I can say this as I am half, the whole Italian thing is lost on me. Quickly sneaking on the shrink’s couch, my father beat any appreciation for that culture out of me at a young age (I only knew him until I was 11). So while I love the rhythm track, thankfully there are lyrics where I can decipher where I am in the song otherwise, I’d be done right here.

There is a chorus that comes up and lifts the song. If I’m not mistaken, I think I hear Belew singing in Italian. What would the Italians call him? Johnny Shoes, or Joey Hats… yeah, I come from THOSE kind of Italians.

That chorus breaks back down to the slinkery riff Belew plays on a clear tone. The second chorus lifts AND separates the repeating lines into a break spearheaded by Cosma which can be heard as an ascending series of chord progressions. This breaks down into melodic almost bells with a hushed solo at the end, even with vocals in the fade down.

“Spin This” starts off with the bass line of the century. What a surprise, King wrote the music. Copeland and Belew come in with snappy drums and snappy riffs. This song is about pretty much about how Jerry Springer made his career. I’m tired of giving away things.

GO AND BUY THE DISC!

Verse one is bass and drums. Then fading in guitar comes with the next stanza. Weird break vocals, ‘hey-yuh’, what are they Indigenous Americans?

On the chorus, Iggy Copeland makes a return. This song would make a lovely companion to Peter Gabriel’s “Digging In The Dirt”.

The King-led choruses belie the verse lyrics. Those verse lyrics get interrupted by the ‘hey-yuh’ break again, this time accompanied by some plinko guitar lines from Belew. The next verse is chill with Cosma adding swells to the verse, with piano chords. After that verse, a nice, up-front Belew solo (like I said, you can’t get enough of them and there are plenty), with Cosma backing off leaving King and Copeland to carry into the ‘hey-yuh’ break.

The next verse introduces us to a new chorus, clever mix lyric and all, but those damn ‘hey-yuh’s’ are back. The first thing on the disc I disagree with. Not bad, there’s only two songs left! With the ‘hey-yuh’s’ going, the new chorus of ‘With a clever mix, of truth and tricks, I think I can spin this’.

Then Belew takes me home to a sound I hadn’t heard him do in a while. Third position bright, clean chords with a quick rhythm and alternating notes, like parts of Twang Bar King, specifically the track “The Ideal Woman”. Not knowing? Get knowing! He leads out over the ‘hey-yuh’s’ until the dynamic falls into a more subdued level. The instruments gather and gather. I have a better understanding of why they needed Copeland to back up Belew on guitar.

Cosma is sparsely adding solo notes and if you have a substandard system (your iPhone, your iPod, your car system, etc.) a lot of these subtleties can be lost. But the music and hooks are so infectious, it’s worth the loss of fidelity to just let yourself move to this stuff. King has layered so many different vocals, you gotta hear it to believe it! Of course the tune ends on King saying ‘I think I can spin this’.

Yeah, and the song has nothing to do with those stupid finger spinners. Tired of the dumbing down of America (Amika?)

Solemn piano starts of “I Know Too Much”. A beautiful line by Cosma. The full band comes in and this track could have been a Police reject. Ironic after my above statement. This song is about being on the lookout for yourself.

Before the second chorus, the verse gets edgy with a repeating note inserting tension. Cosma doing a good Tony Banks piano line.

They give Cosma a lot of space during a drum breakdown, with King adding slight bass when needed until he comes in at the end of the verse. As an ending, they let Belew stretch out one more time. Even in the backing vocal for the last two lines, Belew is featured. It’s Cosma that finishes the song with an organ flourish.

We end the disc with the frenzied “Stark Naked”. An instrumental that is all guitar and keyboard dual. Thank you Ade, Vittorio. Thank you Stewart and Mark too. This album is amazing and I rarely say that. From soaring structures to staccato breaks with all the Belew and Cosma you can eat!

The best way to explain this is, it’s a jam. Get it?

Eating did have a lot to do with this album. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why it’s SO tasty? Seriously this album has everything for the Police fan, the Belew fan, the Level 42 fan, and if you’re not knowing Cosma (as I don’t) if you’re like me, you’ll be knowing VERY soon.

Simply stated this group is lightning in a bottle comparable to the likes of Clarkson, Hammond and May (of the car show Grand Tour). The amazing harmonic component of the voices, the instrumental subtleties, and the mixing of the individual members wry senses of humor, Gizmodrome can’t be beat (Stewart Copeland, be beat, get it?).

To sum it up, the GIzmodrome album is my vote for the finest piece of music in the 21st century.

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