Lightning Bolt - "Ride the Skies" (Load Records, Load-031, 2001)

From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)

This is somewhere around the second official album from the masterful Road Island post-punk progressive-grind duo comprised of Brian Chippendale (drums and vox, though the vox are mostly just "on-the-beat" shouts ) and "bassist" (let's just call him string-meister) Brian Gibson, who may be too punk for proggies and too prog for punkies, but who continue to create original and exhilarating music for amphetamine reptiles and endorphine-junkies. This album is considerably refined, streamlined and more composed compared to the ST'd ("Yellow Album") with no tunes surpassing the five minute mark, nothing approaching a "jam", and no wretched bonus material that pervaded the CD release of that ST'd album. These chops are amazing as ever and kudos to their studio friends this time round for bringing out a production that will stun even the most hobbit-hounded proggie, and the sound is as full as if it were a three-piece, so don't fear that the duo come across as too minimal.

Opener "Forcefield" reveals for the most part what's in store for the next 35 minues: amazingly grinding yet essentially melodious bass from Brian G (from here on known as "G"), who makes guitar-sounds on his "bass" as aptly as any guitterrorist you can imagine. He and drummer Brian C (from here on known as "C") compose tight, rhythmic and yet chaotic monster tunes. "Saint Jacques" is majestic, almost classical, in its grinding way. "13 Monsters" begins as an industrial surf tune, count-down chant provided by C, before full grind sets in, G's destructive ascendent chords to the fore, esssentially repeating his patented petrol-powered 2-3 chord assaults he's now perfected. The title track is the absolute HIGH-LIGHT, such a brutally thrashed-out rush with incredible feedback aplombe (two words not often associated), all phases with their drum-grooves and sky-riffs perfectly meshed to really tell a story in an again almost paradoxically classical fashion... and under 5 minutes. "The Faire Folk" begins with a rapid 3-note "real bass-sound", adds silly mocking vocal whines on the beat, before the inevitable POWER-CRUSH segues right into the ryhthm. G's guitar-bass is such a refined and powerful weapon here, comparable to none. Definitely overdubbing here as well (and that's a fine thing). The tune is almost sabotaged by an arbitrary grind-fest, but these segments are fortunately brief. However, "Into the Mist 2" is a bit much, a Zornish avant-blast grind-mess wank-job with only one brief redeeming segment... because, you see, punks can wank as well as proggies, and sometimes even worse... hence now such distinctions become more vague. But I guess a Bolt LP wouldn't be complete without some over-indulgence. "Wee Ones Parade" begins with some scatting between G's plucks and C's cutesy processed vox, before a monstrous "full-band" groove hits absolute momentum with a modern grind-composition of Zappa/modernist proportions, sounding equally mechanic and organic. "Rotator" finishes the album not in the greatest fashion, a wanky composition with some feedback (but some redeeming guitar tones), though I use the word "wank" here with reserve and some irony, only venerating the group's particular ability to create such wonderment of riff and groove for the people. (And notice I refrained from using the word "psychedelic" here even once.)

For more information you can visit the Load Records web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Load Records; PO Box 35; Providence, RI 02901.

Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg

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