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Attention Deficit — The Idiot King
(Magna Carta MA-9054-2, 2001, CD)

The Idiot King Cover art

The sophomore CD from power trio Skolnick, Manring, and Alexander is another accomplished work of converging but dissimilar paths. In the three years since the group's last project the trio has identified further directions and pegged harsh licks and chops, equal parts metal and jazz inflected. The myriad of influences leave unsettled scores in the direction the trio takes, but it's less hindrance and more absorbed. The first track, "American Jingo," reminds me of an outtake from Isotope's Illusion fusion classic featuring Gary Boyle and Hugh Hopper. The Bush/Gore political fiasco was prominent in the musicians' heads on "Low Voter Turnout" and "Public Speaking Is Easy." While label mates Bozzio, Levin and Stevens merge Latin flavors into the mix, Attention Deficit veers toward Methenyesque ground as on "Any Unseen Event." "The Risk of Failure" recalls ominous shades of King Crimson with its noir introduction that leads into a syncopated workout for bass and drums. The real contrasting tracks on the disc are "Unclear Inarticulate Things" and "RSVP." The former of these songs is driven by Manring's relentless bass and the latter is a slow introspective breath of Allan Holdsworth-like air. "The Killers Are to Blame" reads as almost as a prophetic stab in light of the tragedy at the World Trade Center with brutal guitar, pulsing bass, and tight drumming. Overall, there is no lack of intelligence in these eleven slices of virtuosic calm. The Idiot King easily ranks as one of my top ten fusion discs of the year now if we could just get a series of live performances off the ground.

by Jeff Melton, Published 2001-12-01

The most recent release from Michael Manring continues his musical journey from Windham Hill house bassist to a very adventurous and successful band named Attention Deficit. Manring anchors the power trio with a full, agile, and highly melodic bottom end. His virtuosity and lead lines are on par with top bassists such as Percy Jones and Victor Wooten, putting him in some very exclusive company. Former Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick is chameleon-like here as he evokes players such as Vernon Reid, Mike Stern, and Allan Holdsworth on various tracks. He can wail at times and he also employs odd intervals to give the music an offbeat sound that can be a bit Zappa-esque in places. The brilliance of the disc is that while there is a remarkable tune-to-tune variety the consistency of quality over the 11 tracks is remarkably high. There are certainly hints of Crimson at times and one track clearly evokes Mahavishnu, but this is highly original stuff. If forced to put a label on the album one might come up with “twisted fusion” as an attempt, but the band deftly avoids falling into any type of stylistic box. This outstanding album is highly recommended and will most certainly occupy a prominent spot on my top ten list for 2001.

by David Ashcraft, Published 2001-12-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 23, 2001 releases

Related artist(s): Michael Manring, Attention Deficit, Alex Skolnick

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