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Mike Keneally — Boil That Dust Speck
(Exowax 2302, 1995/2010, CD)
by Rob Walker, Published 1995-07-01
Having made his solo debut in 1992 with the fantastic Hat, Mike Keneally returns with his second album of bizarre and unique musical entertainment. A member of Frank Zappa's '88 touring band, Keneally has more recently been involved in various Zappa tribute concerts and played in the band Z with Zappa's sons Dweezil and Ahmet. His virtuosic guitar skills combined with his zany sense of humor and his eclectic stylistic influences made him a natural choice for Zappa's group, and on his own, simply make for some really fun listening. Boil That Dust Speck is perhaps even more diverse that Hat, but overall the music flows better, and the tunes are better connected into an almost stream of consciousness picture of Keneally's creativity. The strongest stylistic influences are probably metal and RIO, but musically anything is possible, and all is blended together into a fascinating whole which is not particularly easy to define, except by saying it sounds like Keneally. His distinctive and often densely layered vocals grace perhaps half of this album, leaving the rest open for virtuosic instrumental diversions. Prog fans will probably be quick to pick up on Keneally's Yes tribute/parody; a recitation of the lyrics to "The Gates of Delirium" accompanied by a rapid-fire collage of practically every Yes guitar lick from the Relayer album and beyond. But scattered among such gimmicks are more serious tunes, which show once again that Keneally can both write and play some very complex, and very good material. Supported by a revolving cast of drummers, bassists, and a few others, Keneally handles the guitar, keyboard, and most of the vocal chores himself. Some of the more intricately composed music on this album may be reminiscent of Zappa's busy and angular style, and Mike even gives a nod to Zappa's fondness for "conceptual continuity" in a few places, but the majority of this album is Keneally's uniquely identifiable brand of musical fun. So even while delivering some of the more complex music you'll hear this year, Boil That Dust Speck answers Zappa's albeit rhetorical question "Does Humor Belong In Music?" with a resounding yes.
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