|Big Head Todd & The Monsters - Crimes of Passion|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Tuesday, 29 June 2004|
Big Head Todd first came to national prominence in the early ‘90s. With their blend of rock, blues and jazz, they quickly became known for great live performances and a string of outstanding albums. Crimes of Passion continues this string of outstanding albums, with much of the credit going to the songwriting this time around. Todd Park Mohr deserves most of the praise with this release, though. He wrote, recorded, produced and mixed this album. But that is not all: he also designed the album’s graphics and shot some of the photos, as well as doing all the paintings which appear for each song on this DVD-A. My only question for him is, when does he find time to sleep?
This is an album of down-home rockers and some exquisite ballads, with one song that I like to refer to as modern/post-industrial electronic blues. The flow of the album gets predictable after awhile, though, with rocker, ballad, rocker, ballad, rocker, modern/post-industrial electronic blues, ballad, rocker… you get the drift. But this certainly doesn’t detract from the songwriting. As I wrote earlier, the songwriting on this album is really topnotch. Mohr really knows how to put a song together, with plenty of hooks and really nice melodies, but not at the expense of the flow of the album. On the video that that’s included on this disc, there are several shots of the Monsters playing live, with two additional musicians. This album, however, is just the trio of Mohr, Rob Squires on bass and Brian Nevin on drums and percussion.
This disc would be a great Sunday morning or a real late Saturday night album. Nothing too out of the ordinary musically, but I really don’t think you’d expect that from this band. That’s not a slam, just an observation. The one big problem I had with this DVD-A is the Advance Resolution 5.1 Surround. While listening to this disc, I was noticed that the mix was real muddy. The drums were lost in the mix and the low-end bass was basically lifeless. Once I switched to the Dolby Digital 5.1, the album came to life. If Advanced Resolution 5.1 is a new mix format for DVD-A, I would recommend they find a way to get the low end to be heard.
Some of the highlights musically on this album are “Beauty Queen,” “Conquistador,” “Come On,” “Drought of 2013” and “Imaginary Ships.” “Come On” almost sounds like a Jimi Hendrix composition. “Beauty Queen” has a Caribbean feel to it, with steel drums as a real nice addition to the song. “Conquistador” has a psychedelic feel to it, with Mohr’s guitar soaring in a more rhythmic way than on a typical solo (which he does throughout this album, very well). “Drought of 2013” is the modern/post-industrial electronic blues song that I mentioned earlier in the review. The drone of Mohr’s guitar mixed with the electronic rhythm is a real treat for those of you who would like to hear something a little different. It’s not blues per se, but it still has some of those same endearing musical qualities that good blues music has, in a really pleasing piece of studio work by the band. The other part of this disc that I like so much is the artwork that appears while each song is playing. Mohr’s artwork is very original and something that I hope he gets recognized for. I was very impressed by it and would consider buying some of the pieces.
I’ve been trying hard to come up with a good phrase to describe this disc. It’s like blues without being too bluesy and rock without being obnoxious. But I don’t want you to think it’s a wimpy disc, because it’s not. It’s a really well-made album with some excellent songwriting and good musical performances. If you’re a fan of Doyle Bramhall II, John Hiatt, any of Eric Clapton’s latest albums or the jam scene, you’re going to dig this disc. Mohr is an excellent guitarist and the rhythm section holds down the groove with precision. Overall, I’m recommending this disc for those of you who are into well-crafted blues-based guitar music. Definitely worth the price of admission, not only for the music but also for Mohr’s artwork.