Sunday, September 04, 2011

CD Review: Seabrook Power Plant - Seabrook Power Plant II

Seabrook Power Plant

Seabrook Power Plant II

(Loyal Label)

Brandon Seabrook's banjo technique sounds astounding. He plucks the strings so rapidly that sometimes it has the sound of a harp glissando. At other times his attack sounds like he's playing a percussion instrument. When your instrument has little in the way of sustain, you do what you can to work beyond those limitations. He's carving out a whole new niche.

The problem with the first Seabrook Power Plant album (reviewed here back in December 2009) is that the tunes didn't match up with the level of playing on the album. A lot of them sounded like riffs or simple irreverance. Or to be diplomatic, Seabrook (whose band includes his brother Jared on drums and Tom Blancarte on bass) were still figuring out where to take the band. Seabrooke Power Plant II indicates that they're on their way.

The album is just as wild and wooly as its predecessor but this time it seems like there is less done for mere yuks. It's still a little unnerving. "Lamborghini Helicopter" has double-tracked string boxes flailing away in what would probably be thrash metal if it was played on guitar (more on that instrument later). Halfway through the song vocalist Judith Berkson adds some soprano whoops and ahs, which cut in and out like they were random notes struck on a keyboard. Where SBB started their last album off with an idea (a tribute to Pete Townshend that amounted to a few minutes of raked banjo) this is complete concept that rocks.

Seabrook gets his guitar out for "The Night Shift," playing some dramtic minor chords for about a minute, before he launches into what sounds like Zoot Horn Rollo playing a Beefheart lick on 78. This quality, where a song never exactly sticks with one idea, shows how the group has evolved as a unit and how Seabrook has evolved as a composer. And while metal, especially progressive metal, might be an influence on the trio, they execute it in a way that makes sure it rocks hard.

I have to admit I was a little hesitant to put this disc on after the previous one, but I'm glad I did.

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