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5uu's — Crisis in Clay
(ReR Megacorp 5uu2, 1997, CD)

Crisis in Clay Cover art

I bet vocalist Bob Drake gets sick of being compared to Jon Anderson, but dammit he does sound like the guy! Crisis in Clay is the overdue follow-up to the excellent Hunger's Teeth album from 1994. The core trio line-up of Bob Drake, Sanjay Kumar, and David Kerman is at it again. Like so many of the greatest bands, the whole of the 5uu's is greater than the sum of its parts. Focusing attention on any individual instrument on any given song wouldn't give the impression of really complex music, but taken collectively, these guys play tunes that are quite elaborate. It's a demanding listen, and definitely not for those who require major / minor chord, verse-chorus-verse songs. This isn't the kind of album you'd want to play in the background either. Fortunately, there a lot of musical substance packed into the songs, so it's worth full attention. The music is a combination of RIO, symphonic progressive, noise, hard rock... almost everything. Not only do they push the envelope compositionally, the 5uu's use some of the weirdest effects and sound treatments you'll hear. While some songs contain primarily standard rock song instrumentation, others sound like they were produced by Stockhausen. At many points, one would be hard-pressed to identify what instruments are making sounds! My biggest complaint about the album in general is that the vocals could be a bit hotter in the mix. They're sometimes difficult to make out. Otherwise, this is a challenging, but engaging album — different, but extremely interesting. 5uu's definitely got bopped upside the head with the creative stick!

by Mike Grimes, Published 1998-07-01

A couple of years ago, 5uu's put out Hunger's Teeth, an album which really took a lot of people by surprise, with its unique blend of rock, avant-RIO and a healthy dose of pure Americana. Crisis in Clay picks up right where "Hunger's Teeth" left off. The core trio of Bob Drake (guitars, bass, vocals, violin), David Kerman (drums, guitar, keyboards), and Sanjay Kumar (keyboards) are again augmented by Thomas DiMuzio (electronics, computer sounds) on four of the 16 tunes, which range from only two to five minutes each. Kerman handles almost all of the writing duties while Drake handles the production and mixing side of things. Clearly they are a very close-knit bunch and they work very efficiently together. Each of the tunes on this album has its own identity and character, although it will take more than a few listens for each song to reveal its structure to you. Drake uses a lot vocal effects this time around, particularly on the first half of the album. Although there are no pure instrumentals, there are at least three tunes which have some absolutely killer riffing, which you would never expect to work so well in this context, but they sure do. The theme riff to "Goliath in the Sights" is a prime example, with its heavy driving guitar which resurfaces in exactly the right places. Overall, fans of Hunger's Teeth are sure to enjoy this one. While it's probably even more complex than Hunger's Teeth, Crisis in Clay is a challenging, well-executed album of thinking-man's music and one of the best releases of 1997 no doubt.

by Dan Casey, Published 1998-07-01

For only three guys, 5uu’s sure makes a lot of noise, and plenty of hard-driving complex rock music which is at once innovative and accessible. The core band membership of Bob Drake (vocals, guitars, bass, violin), Sanjay Kumar (keyboards) and leader Dave Kerman (drums, guitars, keys) remains as it was on their previous release Hunger’s Teeth from ‘94. Again, Thomas Dimuzio contributes electronic treatments to several tracks, while Scott Brazeal (ex-Cartoon, PFS) contributes vibes on another. The sixteen tracks herein navigate through a barrage of twisted and frenzied key and time changes, odd and angular vocal harmonies, and powerful shifts in coloration, intensity, and dynamics. Polyrhythms abound, sometimes operating in multiple time signatures simultaneously; the level of composition and production herein are a full notch or two higher than on their previous endeavor. No barber-shop quartets this time, but throughout one might get the sense that they are listening to a head-on roller-coaster collision between Frank Zappa and Yes. Indeed, Drake’s voice has a Jon Anderson-like quality that offers a sense of familiarity amid the dense and layered instrumental complexity, with insightful lyrics that go beyond the standard fare. Challenging music this is, with plenty to hold the listener’s attention, it demands repeated listens and offers no shortcuts. Recommended.

by Peter Thelen, Published 1998-07-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 15, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): 5uu's, Dave Kerman, Bob Drake, Thomas Dimuzio

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