Recording number 28! That’s hard to imagine for some people including other musicians. Not that it makes anything better or worse, but you have to ask if a band can really produce great music throughout a humongous output like that. Ozric Tentacles have gone through a good deal of member changes and that is obviously a help to the archive of music they have built.
The present line-up is Ed Wynne (guitar, synths), Brandi Wynne (bass), Silas Neptune Wynne (synths), and Ollie Seagle (drums). I’ve heard some of my friends who are long time fans both love and hate ‘Paper Monkeys’. It doesn’t influence me one way or another, as I listen to every recording I get three times ( never twice the same day ) so in case I am not in the mood for a certain type music, I can keep an objective mind. As for my feelings about the previous CD’s by O.T., it’s been a hit or miss for me. This new one, I found another mixed bag.
‘Paper Monkeys’ sounds like a hyper version of Christian Boule, Clearlight Symphony, and Gong ( in their ‘You’ year) but with a much more persistent bass line and jam structure. I’ve always felt they had this sound and more so on the Gong space jam with their earlier recordings. Problem is, after just a couple of records like that, you are ready for something else. I admit I am well beyond my rave years, and my trip years, and my space-out in the beanbag chair days. Unfortunately sometimes Ozric Tentacles just sound like a spacey rave band. The rhythms have all been done too death and the synthesizer effects are all pretty trademark times ten thousand. On a couple of the first songs the only one who is having a blast is the bass player. The Psychedelic Rock / Space Rock is still pretty much the same as the last couple of releases as a whole.
So on an entertainment level, there is a medium amount. As far as it being interesting in a cerebral sense, the first few cuts stay mundane and just too repetitive for my tastes.. I do like track four (“Knurl”) as it kicks out of that rut. It has some more spatial and distinct chops with drums, bass, and guitar. The keyboards are way more interesting here too. It has a jazzy happy way about it. It builds into a fine celestial jazz fusion piece. It gets my vote for best song on the CD. The second favorite is the next song (track 5) called “Lost In The Sky” as it has a cool intro with nice electric piano, and a crisp entrance of the rhythm section. It also has some hot lead guitar and a lot of texture. Some nice voice effects and we have a song to keep your interest. This is what I was looking for the whole time. And I have to give them credit for making another difference type song on the title cut (“Paper Monkeys”) in the beginning, even if they did kick into the jam mode after three minutes. It wasn’t bad at all with a nice seven plus minute spread. I liked the structure, as they brought in some feisty and razor sharp odd time signatures. The next song is way too much funk and sounds if it could be taken from one of those 70's French jazz funk rock bands that were too influenced by the 70's American funk scene. Some might like to dance to this one at the concerts. Very boring and back to the repetition problems. Almost eight minutes of it too. *holding my nose* Then we have a ten minute and forty-two second song (“Will Of The Wisps”). I like the play on words. The beginning is very nice, and feels good. You can hear the absolute possibility of a unfolding creative tune in progress. The problem with it is it runs too long in this same mode. It’s four minutes and counting before anything of value happens different. Another trouble lays with the fact that the band continues to use the same exact instruments and the sounds of those instruments on all their songs. The complexity they often approach (and this is for all their recordings) usually gets dampened by the paper doll instrument sounds they stay with. Sure it’s convenient and easier to just use the same settings and instrument tones for so much of the music, but it does kill off their possibilities of making big interesting compositions verses monotonous jams in the wake of bands like Hawkind and Grateful Dead. Of course this comparison is in the figurative sense. So many of O.T.’s songs have a presence of greatness, and many more have glimmers of magic. On the last tune, (“Air City”) the music has a gamelan mode, which is nice. A very Pierre Moerlen’s Gong sound. I think they should have extended the time on this one and turned it into an epic song. Would have been a great ending. However, they just cut it short and with just under four minutes, it vanishes without fanfare.
I’d brag about the beautiful cover art but they only sent me a plain disc in a clear plastic thin sleeve (Editor‘s note: this is how the promo was sent). What I saw online looked nice enough to hang on your wall though. So here is where O.T. are after twenty five years of putting out music to the public. Personally, I think it’s time for them to bring in a new member and allow some new contributions from that member in the writing department. It might serve them well for the next CD, as they could use some new ideas for recording number 29. ‘Paper Monkeys’ could have been titled Paper Dolls.
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on December 6th, 2011