Gizmodrome is the first release by a four-piece who between them have already worked on dozens of albums. They’re a good old-fashioned supergroup, comprising Police drummer and soundtrack composer Stewart Copeland; Level 42’s slap-bassist extraordinaire Mark King; Adrian Belew, the guitar star of records by King Crimson, David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Talking Heads; and keyboard whizz Vittorio Cosma of Italian prog legends PFM.
If this sounds like an opportunity for a whole lot of instrument twiddling, well, that’s exactly what Gizmodrome is. They could easily have done it the modern way and swapped sound files, without once meeting. Instead, they did what musicians love to do: they got together to jam. Copeland and Cosma had collaborated before, but it was when they were joined by Belew and King in a Milan recording studio that Gizmodrome took shape.
You can imagine the jostling for position that took place. In a room full of egos, Copeland immediately appears to have emerged as the dominant force: his drumming is to the fore throughout, and he assumes the role of lead singer. His voice is an obdurate instrument that resembles the monotone intoning of a Zappa, although it’s nicely balanced out by King and Belew’s more melodic vocal backup.
Really, though, nobody is left hanging about here for long, and all four musicians get to enjoy plenty of performance time. It’s less a seamless fusion than a collision of opposites, which more often than not works. Gizmodrome showcases four musicians from disparate genres (pop, jazz funk, rock, prog) creating a listenable melee out of their individual virtuoso contributions.
Opener Zombies In The Mall is typical: it sounds like The Police at their rockiest and Level 42 at their jazz-funkiest, with Belew and Cosma respectively splashing guitar and keyboards, Pollock-style, on top. On Stay Ready and Man In The Mountain, Copeland’s nasal narrations have satirical intent, although it’s not clear what the targets are.
Summer’s Coming is, Copeland has explained, about dispensing with “virtuous serenity” and embracing depravity, a bacchanalian romp that captures the protagonist in the throes of a midlife crisis. Sweet Angels is prog funky, Strange Things Happen a reggae skank. Name a genre, they tackle it.
I Know Too Much is like being barracked at a dinner party by a conspiracy theorist, but that was probably the intention. Instrumental closer Stark Naked has a pleasing suppleness and invention, the players allowed space to noodle, making it a superb end to a fine album. Welcome to the Gizmodrome.