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Blue Man Group - The Complex Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 April 2003
Blue Man Group
The Complex
format: CD
label: Lava
release year: 2003
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Visitors to Las Vegas usually enjoy a show or two while over there, but few would likely consider bringing home audio CDs of what they’ve just seen. However, since Nevada’s often cheesy ‘big town’ hasn’t witnessed much resembling the aurally and visually adventurous show created by Blue Man Group before, it makes sense that this particular outfit has pioneered a recorded exception to this informal showbiz rule. The Complex is a guest-list-loaded alternative dance/rock album, which sounds just about as marvelous as Blue Man Group looks.
The Complex spends part of its time deconstructing the whole rock concert experience. “Time To Start,” for example, is a percussive rock track that instructs concertgoers on commonly expected audience behaviors: “I’m at the club/I’m in the crowd all alone/I’m waiting for the music to come on/’Cause once the song’s begun/The group is one/And once the song is done/The group is gone.” Such lyrics almost read like the naïve thoughts David Byrne used to spout back during his Talking Heads days. “What Is Rock” is yet more words of rock-concertgoing-wisdom, which comes off a little punky due to Arone Dyer and Peter Moore’s vocal help. As proof that this group of blue-colored musicians also knows its pop music history, “White Rabbit” is included here as a darkly percussive Jefferson Airplane cover, with guest vocals by Esthero. “I Feel Love” is another cover (this time with a Donna Summer disco sex song), with Venus Hum on vocals.

Lyrically, there seems to be a lot of amateur psychology going on within this disc, because when Blue Man Group are not playing concert scene sociologists, they’re doing a little basic human behavioral study. “Persona,” which is a slower, nearly balladesque track, has Josh Haden on vocals describing the faces put on for the world. “Your Attention” is seemingly about human communication or the lack thereof. You can just barely hear Spaulding Gray speaking in the background (listed as “words on the right”) on this hyper-percussive semi-funk workout, which has a bit of an Eastern feel to it.

Sonically, this album is as much rock as it is dance music. “The Current” is a trippy rocker, which has Avram Gleitsman singing as it rolls along like a less anxious Nine Inch Nails number. “Up To The Roof” is a driving rocker that features Tracy Bonham singing, and “The Complex” is a slab of insistent rock. “Sing Along” stands out from the pack, due to its loping, jazzy mood that borders on reggae, featuring Dave Matthews’ semi-scatted vocal. “Piano Smasher,” a dance-y and Gothic instrumental, also breaks a tad from form.

Blue Man Group may not have created the stepping stone to rock stardom with this one release, but these gentlemen certainly haven’t embarrassed themselves, either. Could this be goodbye Vegas Strip, hello Sunset Strip?

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