A lineup of esteemed, skilled musicians doesn't always automatically translate into sonic gold. Gizmodrome's eponymously titled debut album is one such case. Featuring Stewart Copeland of The Police fame; Level 42's Mark King; Adrian Belew (ex-King Crimson et al) and Vittorio Cosma, expectations are, of course, naturally high. And the level of musicianship throughout is fantastic (particularly King's bass work). How each of the players gel together in the instrumentations is to be equally admired. However, what 'Gizmodrome' lacks is great songs. Or even good songs. It's all very middle of the road, unfortunately. What we essentially have is a series of distinctly average tunes coloured with some admirable performances. And it's the four men's combined instrumental prowess that elevates their compositional mediocrity to above average status.
I'm not immediately sure just what else has been regurgitated in 'cover' form here, but seventh track, 'Strange Things Happen', is most definitely a Copeland solo piece that's over 30 years old, as I recall said track on the soundtrack for Tobe Hooper's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2' (and it wasn't one of the OST's best songs... The Cramps; Lords of the New Church; Concrete Blonde; Oingo Boingo et al. far outshone Copeland's contribution). A little online digging reveals that 'Stay Ready' appeared on a Copeland solo work of yore, too. Press blurb fails to mention any notion of cover work; instead, this album is, apparently, "something new and truly unique" and is also "unpredictable and pioneering". Alas not. Even the original tracks don't sound creatively fresh in any small way. It's all very retro-biased. And sure, it is unpredictable. The songs are unpredictably average.
Even the vocals on the album not all that engaging... it's fair to say it moves me not. Copeland's drumming talent is undeniable, but his singing voice is emotionally lacking, which makes for an affectively detached listening experience. Semi-spoken word in parts, his voice lacks variance and any sense of engaging intonation. He sounds as deflated as some of the instrumentations over which he "sings". Elements of pop, rock, prog, funk etc, etc have been combined in the most unadventurous of ways.
With all that said, I'm sure 'Gizmodrome' will provide a light-hearted dose of fun for some people if it catches them in the right mood and they set their expectations low. It sounds as if that's precisely how these musicians approached the songs on the album... with the utmost light-heartedness... perhaps a little too laidback, it could be said. I'm sure they had a ton of fun during the 15 days they spent in a Milan studio creating 'Gizmodrome'... but, unfortunately, a fun listen this is not.
Review by Mark Holmes
15th Sept 2017
1) Zombies in the Mall
2) Stay Ready
3) Man in the Mountain
4) Summer's Coming
5) Sweet Angels (Rule the World)
6) Amaka Pipa
7) Strange Things Happen
8) Ride Your Life
9) Zubatta Cheve
10) Spin This
11) I Know Too Much; 12) Stark Naked
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"What we essentially have is a series of distinctly average tunes coloured with some admirable performances."