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Paul Burnell
Leaving The Party On Pluto
Self Released

I wish I knew where best to start with this one. This is my first review for a very limited CD release, and it just so happens that it's a fairly "unique" album, to say the least. If I was going to synopsize it for someone, I might call it "Mr. Bungle for flaky, artsy people." Or what might've happened if Bob Ross (the "Happy Trees" painter on PBS) had fronted the Butthole Surfers instead of Gibby Haynes (much kinder, much gentler). There are some interesting and inventive tracks on this experimental album, but there are also several that should've been left on the cutting room floor.

I'd always wondered what the true value of having a producer on an album was until listening to this album. A producer is most useful by virtue of the fact that he or she is not a part of the artist's vision. A producer is paid to have a good ear, and to be able to recognize and mold musical inspiration into something that 'sounds like money'. I'm not trying to be pessimistic by completely reducing musical endeavor to nothing more than a capitalistic engine, but a producer, (i.e. someone other than Mr. Burnell himself), could have cut out several of the 30+ tracks this CD has to offer, and created a tighter-sounding album--sans some of the songs that consisted of a lot of repeated dissonant chords reminiscent of a 3-year-old pounding at the piano ("Frayed End"), or mercilessly abusing a guitar ("Forty"). (Does anyone remember Syd Barrett and his obsession with the note middle C? He wrote an entire song with it, and nothing else. It was called "Middle C." Fortunately, I don't think it was ever recorded, because someone in Pink Floyd finally realized that he was completely mad.) Paul Burnell has created some fun and kooky songs like "Leaving The Party On Pluto", a song about farting called "Ripper Ripper Let RIP RIP", "Tuber", and "Sugar Ray Gun" that blend some unconventional devices used as musical instruments quite successfully and have an ethereal but familiar feel to them. (Like the grinding spark of an old Flash Gordon ray gun, or the Doppler effect sounds of passing cars.) He also made some that drove me nuts pretty quickly and had me reaching for the fast forward button to preserve my sanity. In his press release, he said that he wanted to introduce some humor into his songs. I would go with that feeling, Paul. The humorous and lighthearted songs seemed to be the most inventive compositions and created the most compelling listening experience.

The pacing of this album is also a little eccentric. Sometimes it stops and feels like a whisper or an overheard conversation. Sometimes it is deliberate and feels like you're in an automated factory. And sometimes it feels like you're on a roller coaster, or you're a little kid chasing through the house after a friend or brother at breakneck speed, coaxing a fiery red glow out of your tin ray gun in the hope that it will persuade your intended target to play dead. Sometimes it is slow and quiet, and sometimes it is loud and fast with driving drum beats comprised of all sorts of polyrhythms, the breadth of which you aren't likely to find from ten different bands.

And, most importantly, it is definitely not the Backstreet Boys, or Marilyn Manson, or Eminem, or Staind--or anything else you're likely to hear on the radio. This is music with a mood, not an attitude. Its goal is to try the untried, and takes a chance doing it. It's occasionally very natural and (I hate to use this word) 'organic' sounding, and at other times it is mechanical and artificial.

And sometimes, it's just about making fart noises with your mouth and hearing people laugh at it... Hmmmm. Okay.

Obviously, this isn't the sort of music for everyone, but if you liked Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante (not to suggest that the two are similar, as you'll find virtually NO jazz on Pluto), are willing to take a chance and accept that albums of this type will fail almost as often as they succeed, then Leaving The Party On Pluto might be right up your alley. I couldn't find it on CDNOW or Amazon, but it can be ordered directly from the Musical Squares website listed above.


Track Listing:

  1. Leaving The Party On Pluto
  2. Nanomachines At War In The Brain
  3. Frayed End
  4. Angle Poise
  5. Tuber
  6. Just Before Dawn
  7. Consumers Unite
  8. A Short Prophecy
  9. Out Of The Woods
  10. Deadpan
  11. Ripper Ripper Let RIP RIP
  12. Convulsive (excerpt)
  13. Forty
  14. A New Planetary Anthem
  15. Sugar Ray Gun
  16. Tooth Decay
  17. All The Same
  18. Ophelia's Last Song
  19. Domino Effect Experiment
  20. Hugh's In Trouble
  21. Service
  22. Musical Squares
  23. Andromeda
  24. Is That You?
  25. Three Chairs
  26. A Long Prophecy
  27. Trying To Remember
  28. Running Round The School
  29. Coming Unstuck
  30. Tricorder
  31. On The Ice

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