Healing Inside Outside Every Side
I’ve never wanted to be a Buckethead fan. It feels problematic. And not in the way you usually read the word ‘problematic’ in reviews or articles. There’s no likelihood that Buckethead – a physically grown man in a mask with a KFC bucket on his head, played by someone that used be called Brian Carroll though I fear his essence was absorbed in much the way Anakin Skywalker morphed into Darth Vader – is anyway peddling a cart alongside Ryan Adams or Woody Allen or, hell, Kirstie Alley…It’s not for me to worry that Buckethead might be a creep or, nearly worse, a Trump supporter. My issue is that Buckethead fans are creepy incel-types. And I don’t want to be anywhere near a reddit sub-thread ever.
So I’ve kept my distance.
And I say all of this because Colma by Buckethead is one of my all-time favourite albums by anyone ever. It’s as special to me as Pet Sounds or Abbey Road or Music for Airports or Songs In The Key of Life. It really is. Something happened when I first heard it. It changed music for me. And perhaps more importantly and as a result it changed the way I received music; the way I sat to appreciate it – the things I focussed in on.
Through trial and across the eras I’ve realised the type of Buckethead music I like. And it’s basically anything in the vague Colma shape. Which is to say acoustic, which is to say gentle, which is to say emotionally resonant – and though I’m impressed by his shred credentials, I loved some of his contributions to the era of Guns n Roses and many of his cameos elsewhere and some of the more metal-related albums he’s played on and made I am firmly here for Buckethead when he’s there with the Colma-isms.
So I’m still finding things buried deep in that giant, weird catalogue. And I only like to look now and then. It’s only one extra instant coffee at night and I’ll be up on a thread talking about Praxis or the best Les Claypool side-projects. And I don’t need to collect any more reasons to be painted near a square where the basement-dwellers hang.
And if you’ve read this far and you’re thinking “what’s a Buckethead? Or even, “What’s a Buckethead album though, really?” A) You need to find a new reading hobby. And B) you need to stop buying instant coffee entirely.
Healing Inside Outside Every Side is B-head’s “Lockdown” album. Well, that’s what I’m calling it anyway. By virtue of date-stamping something in 2020 you’re making a Lockdown Project. That’s how they’ll all be remembered.
But Healing Inside has the right amount of Colma for this fairweather fan. In fact, opener, How Much Does A Thought Weigh, even feels like one or two of the ideas from Colma revisited and stretched to loop. It’s a gloriously low-key version of laidback-shred. The chops all there but the emotional heft far more obvious than any technical facility; these are gorgeous, deceptively simple guitar motifs and melodies, arriving like waves and bringing thoughts of the ocean’s profundity.
At just six songs and 30 minutes this is basically an EP but I’m hearing it like it’s an album – primarily because I always play it at least twice in a row. I’m happy spending 60 or 90 or even 120 minutes in the company of these tunes. The title track is like an instrumental power ballad but the absolute highlights here are two songs in the middle – Fireflies which is a classic Buckethead trail of onanistic bluesy guitar spirals coiled around a silvery, slippery cymbal, snare, bass-drum groove. He’s like Frank Zappa’s in his best lyrical-guitar moments when he plays like this. Blues-drenched but not at all blues-derived – which is to say it takes nothing from the genre but the emotional clout.
And then the long, slow lope of The Dream That Dreamt. A minimalist piece of guitar soloing that feels as much like The Dirty Three as it does anything Buckethead has released. It’s so slow-burn as to be merely the waft of only the stubborn embers. For nearly 10 minutes the brushed drums and hushed guitar carve out their space, as much looking for somewhere to curl up as to stretch out. It’s sonically beautiful – calming and gentle. Relaxed, spiritual even, most certainly as philosophical as the titles of these tunes and this album. This is the Buckethead I am here for. And of course an actual Buckethead fan will find this and read (half of) it and make suggestions for all the albums I must hear and incredulous about the ones they’re sure I haven’t yet got to. Let me save you time: I have. And/or I never will.
I’m happy. You should try that sometime too.
This album could help with that. It’s fucking stunning.
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