Unstoppable Momentum Meets Immovable Objects
As of May 7th Joe Satriani’s 14th solo album Unstoppable Momentum has been released. After several listens I’ve built a consensus on the album. If you want to keep it simple I’ll just tell you right now. It’s a good album. If you haven’t bought it yet and are thinking of it, then I say go for it.
If you want more of a review rather than a single sentence to follow blindly, don’t worry. I’ve got a whole writeup to qualify the opinion I’ve formed. So without further hesitation, let’s talk about music.
Unstoppable Momentum is an 11-track album that spans approximately 45 minutes. Joe Satriani is well known for his diverse musicality. That’s a side of his playing that has become one of his more defining trademarks through his career. While it’s as prevalent here as it is on any other Satch album, it doesn’t seem to feature as much of his bluesier style or his influence from science fiction.
Instead the album is primarily a straight forward rock album and I can’t help but wonder how Chickenfoot’s ever growing status has influenced Satriani’s solo work. That doesn’t mean to say there aren’t any kooky and eccentric guitarist moments. There are plenty of those, but if Unstoppable Momentum has anything on its side it’s accessibility.
Guitar enthusiasts will find plenty of fun subtleties to inspire wonder at Satch’s imagination, but the package is never delivered in a way that would alienate more casual listeners. Unstoppable Momentum is overall easily digested and doesn’t come off nearly as complex as it does when you actually try and play some of the songs.
Unstoppable Momentum – Time and time again we’ve been told of the irreversible impact of the first impression. On Unstoppable Momentum the title track is that first impression and right off the bat we’re given a song that is unmistakably Satriani. A mellow I-V-IV progression in 5/8 with Satch’s signature whammy pedal style gets the wheels turning on this. By the powers of pitch axis theory the listener is persuaded through an array of emotions along the way. Alongside the lively drums this is one of the more energetic songs on the album.
Shine On American Dreamer – “Shine On American Dreamer” hits the ground running with a thick and chunky bass line not unlike those heard on Surfing With the Alien. It then proceeds to introduce guitar riffs and melodies that justify my previous postulations about Chickenfoot’s influence. The beat is easy to casually tap your foot to, the guitar riffs are relaxed and satisfying, and the melodies sing as well as a lead vocalist would.
Jumpin’ In – “Jumpin’ In” is one of the more adventurous songs on this album. It starts off with a cool, old southern rock feel not unlike Super Colossal’s “Just Like Lightnin”, but wastes no time traversing into an array of styles within its 5 minute duration. The star attraction would have to be the technical prowess. If there’s a trick Satch knows how to pull off on the guitar you can bet it’s in this song somewhere. The followup “Jumpin’ Out” catches any tricks “Jumpin’ In” may have missed. In short, awesome songs.
A Celebration – Much like the first impression, the last impression also tends to have a lasting effect as it’s the last thing we hear before the silence returns. As Unstoppable Momentum progresses it gradually becomes more experimental, but for the finale it brings it back down to something a bit more level headed. It gives us a final taste of Satch’s excellent melodic control and a bit of his shreddy licks.
The instrumental guitar genre is often something that only guitarists can really appreciate, but with music like Satriani’s this realm of music can be appreciated by just about anyone, provided their ears can discern a good melody when they hear it. It’s over the top without ever being over the top. Energetic yet down to earth. Complex and accessible. It is a musical manifestation of good balance.