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Joe Satriani - What Happens Next (Album Review)

Monday, 15 January 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

After spending most of this century exploring brain-bending sonic wormholes with an unstoppable momentum, instrumental guitar maestro Joe Satriani – aka Shockwave Supernova – has come back to earth on a record that sees him returning to his rock and soul roots. Loosely embracing the power trio format, and ably backed by a famous rhythm section, this is Satch’s most comparatively straightforward and accessible effort in decades.

The youthful energy that fuels ‘What Happens Next’ - the sixteenth solo album of the 61-year-old’s career – shows Satriani’s as enraptured as ever by his instrument and the possibilities it affords. Combine that with the exciting concepts he dreams up for his records, and the stellar musicians employed to execute them, and its little wonder he delivers the goods time and again.

After a number of offerings where progressive elements blended with trademark melodic smarts and dazzling virtuoso skills, this album is full of songs in 4/4 time with simpler arrangements, no crazy time signatures and a lot less notes. If that worries you then bear in mind stripped back is a relative term for Satriani and he hasn’t suddenly gone punk. Within this seemingly limited framework his mesmeric chops and inspired creative choices still conjure up styles, moods and colours that will have imaginations running riot.

Cherry Blossoms' reflective pathos dovetails into gorgeous pizzicato harp work followed by thunderous detonations. Super Funky Badass, meanwhile, is seven minutes of dirty swagger, boasting an attitude drenched tsunami of ascending and descending licks, haunting ambient detours and face-melting solos.

It is this record’s all-star rhythm section, though, that really helps set the songs alight. Backed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer – and Satch’s Chickenfoot band mate – Chad Smith, alongside bassist/rock legend Glenn Hughes, the sizzling chemistry and kinetic muscle that drives Energy and Headrush is something to behold. The former finds Hughes’ booming lines and Smith’s crashing beats propelling a vintage Satriani riff that’s punctuated by lightning bolt solo bursts. The latter shares DNA with Satch Boogie, galloping forward with a relentless wild-eyed vigour and even morphing into a countrified hard rock hoedown when the mood takes.

With these tracks written especially for his rhythmic ringers, some eschew the lyrical verse, chorus structure Satriani often employs and are built around distinct grooves and riffs that serve as hooks in their own right. Thunder High On The Mountain is an epic number where spiritual single-string dancing gives way to the gnarliest power chords of Satriani’s career. Catbot, meanwhile, is the most bonkers moment as Satch’s guitar apes a robot attempting to mimic a moggy. What has the potential to fall prey to experimental weirdness is redeemed by a thumping Muse-esque cadence and colossal climax of classic rock abandon.

Elsewhere, vintage Satriani melodies take the limelight. Righteous is a major key feelgood piece that shines like a dozen crazy diamonds, Smooth Soul’s glistening Santana beauty is exquisitely atmospheric and staccato elocution over funky chords makes Looper a delightfully nonchalant toe tapper. While the title track’s chorus is as close to a euphoric pay off as you’ll get with your clothes on.

Although nowhere near as innovative as his early pioneering work, ‘What Happens Next’ is a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience that recalls 1992’s ‘The Extremist’ due to its focus on tighter songs, catchy musical motifs and stunningly mature compositional flourishes from - topical reference alert - the genre's undoubted Jedi master.

Joe Satriani Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Tue April 24 2018 - SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion
Wed April 25 2018 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thu April 26 2018 - BRISTOL Colston Hall
Fri April 27 2018 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sun April 29 2018 - PORTSMOUTH Guildhall
Mon April 30 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall

Click here to compare & buy Joe Satriani Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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