ALBUM REVIEW: Giraffe Tongue Orchestra – Broken Lines
Supergroups are often hit and miss affairs: at their best you end up with coherent projects where the band’s members compliment each other, such as Them Crooked Vultures or Audioslave, whilst at their worst they can just sound like a self-indulgent mess (looking at you here Chickenfoot).
This new one is entitled Giraffe Tongue Orchestra and boasts a hugely impressive array of talent, comprising of Alice in Chains vocalist William DuVall, guitarists Ben Weinman of the Dillinger Escape Plan and Brent Hinds of Mastodon, Dethklok bassist Pete Griffin and former The Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen. The group’s debut record is entitled Broken Lines and it can be best be described as a mix of mathcore, prog rock and funk (the last of which is certainly out of left field, given the previous music made by the group’s members).
The album begins brightly with opening track Adapt Or Die providing some solid riffs, with a top notch guitar solo from Hinds offering the highlight of the song. This is followed by lead single Crucifixion which proves one of the strongest moments on the album. All of the members of the group bring their A-game on this track: be it Duvall whose vocal range is excellent, varying between Chino Moreno-esque clean vocals and anxious snarled vocals during the songs chorus; and the guitar interplay between Weinman and Hinds here is every bit as challenging and experimental as you’d expect it to be, and keeps the track from sounding like a dull radio rock song. The tracks most interesting moment comes about halfway through, with a Dillinger like break in the song’s furious tempo to offer a really ethereal slower 40 seconds or so, before breaking into Duvalls frantic snarl of “IT’S TIME FOR CRUXIFICTION” ahead of another excellent high tempo solo from Hinds. The levels of musicianship in this song are incredible, and with all of the members able to experiment with so many interesting ideas within a 4 minute song without making it sound like a mess is very impressive.
It would be easy to listen to the first third of the album and think you’ve determined GTO’s sound, but as the record progresses it continues to challenge the listener. Track 7 titled All We Have Is Now is a full on ballad, the type of track you would never expect to hear from a band featuring Brent Hinds and Ben Weinman. Although the track shows off Duvall’s powerful vocals this fails to be a productive ballad, as it ultimately feels like its building up to something grand yet doesn’t deliver.
The following track Everyone Gets Everything They Really Want is a full on funk-dance-rock hybrid, which actually works much better than we would have thought. This side of the band allows the rhythm section to shine, with Griffin providing a great bassline which drives the song, whilst Weinman’s genty guitar’s over parts really compliment the track’s huge sound. This song is very camp and silly but it’s a great deal of fun and is something truly different which, in an age where rock music is often afraid to be challenging and different anymore, is refreshing.
However the album is not without its weaker moments. Songs such as Thieves and Whores while competent aren’t nearly as exciting and challenging as similar tracks on the record (note: Crucifixion). Additionally the tracklisting of this album is chaotic so that it doesn’t feel like a complete body of work, instead a bit like a compilation of different songs.
Broken Lines is certainly a challenging and diverse listen, and fans of the members’ other bands should come into this with an open mind. There’s plenty to enjoy from each member’s output on this: be it Pridgen’s jazz influenced drumming; Hinds crunching riffs and excellent guitar solos; Ben Weinman’s unusual song structures & guitar playing; or DuValls impressive vocal range & performance. The biggest compliment we can pay this record is that is offers so many progressive and challenging elements within such short songs and often this works to great effect, avoiding the trap that so many other prog-rock bands fall into: having the interesting moments too drawn out and ultimately becoming pretentious drivel.
Whilst some songs of the ideas and songs on this record work better than others, there’s no doubt that there’s a lot of initial fun to be had from this album and plenty of subtleties that will take multiple listens to really appreciate. As far as supergroups go, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra are one of the better ones and it’s a shame that with other band commitments we are unlikely to hear another record in the near future; if this band had a year or two of touring under their belts they could come back with an even stronger sophomore record. Broken Lines might not be an album of the year contender, but it sure is a lot of fun for anyone with an appreciation for challenging rock music.
Standout Track: Crucifixion
For Fans Of: Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, At The Drive-In, Alice in Chains
Written by: Cameron Law