Buckethead (guitar, bass)
Colma (CyberOctave 45380)
Brain (drums and loops), DJ Disc (unidentified contribution).
Recorded: Oakland, no date given (CD released in 1998)
Rating: 91/100 (learn more)
When I was about nine years old, I followed the exploits of The Destroyer, a masked wrestler who appeared regularly on Southern California television. (New Yorkers will tell you that, in L.A., this counts as high culture.) Too bad we didn't have Buckethead back then. He would have pushed ratings through the roof and had everyone rushing out to phone Richmond 9-5171. This guitarist, who invariably plays with a bucket on his head—question: does Kentucky Fried Chicken pay him endorsement money?—combines ethereal improvisation with a stage persona straight out of TV wrestling. Even the name of the track ("Machete") and the CD (Colma—a city famous for its cemeteries) adds to the over-the-edge sensibility.
Yet here is the strangest part of the story. This artist's guitar playing has no gimmickry about it. The music has a stark, open quality and—unlike the bizarre figure on stage—makes its point through understatement, especially in the opening minutes of "Machete." But don't underestimate this walking advertisement for fried chicken: when the occasion warrants, his digits can fly (lick-finger-pickin' good), and the track closes with some seriously wailing guitar. Even so, there is a cerebral and noncommercial soulfulness at work here. Heck, I'd listen to him even if he ditched the bucket, and downsized to a box or bag.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia