Unless you’re friendly with music publicists, it’s not every day that you have the chance to hear a sneak preview of a full album months before its release.
Without the aid of Doc Brown’s DeLorean, a magic hot tub or a most excellent phone booth, however, it’s practically impossible to receive an advance listen to one that has yet to even be recorded.
Then again, The Aristocrats have a way of bringing the impossible – or, at least, music that sounds impossible – to life. Days before entering the studio to track their third full-length, the virtuosic prog/fusion trio set up shop for four consecutive nights at Alva’s. This intimate venue in the southern tip of Los Angeles County is where they recorded a 2012 live CD/DVD, and it’s where they’ve decided to work out the kinks of their new album – in its entirety.
Despite the potential for added pressure, tonight’s show features a relaxed Storytellers-like vibe featuring humorous introductions from the band member who wrote each song. Drummer Marco Minnemann kicks things off by dedicating set opener Stupid 7 to the track’s “odd” 7⁄8 time signature, while guitarist Guthrie Govan describes the mischievous Jack’s Back as a musical sequel to 2011’s Furtive Jack.
Then it’s Bryan Beller’s turn. In the subsequent Texas Crazypants – inspired by a gas-station fender bender during a cross-country drive – he momentarily swaps his thunderous basslines for a pair of drum sticks and proceeds to trade off with Minnemann.
Next, Minnemann’s ZZ Top (so named for its riff that recalls the Texas trio) and Govan’s airy Pig’s Day Off (which Beller calls “probably the hardest song in the whole set”) set the stage for Beller’s fascinating Smuggler’s Corridor. The song features a twangy groove straight out of a 70s TV cop show, as well as a wordless vocal section where Beller and Minnemann – and, soon enough, the crowd – echo Govan’s guitar melody.
The final lap of new material begins with the Minnemann ballad Pressure Relief, on which he sneaks in a few keyboard lines with one hand while drumming with the other.
From there, Govan gives a history lesson about what he calls the Kentucky Meat Shower, a freak 1876 incident that involved horse carcasses and vomiting buzzards. Later, Beller dedicates Through The Flower to late bassist Wes Wehmiller (Duran Duran, Mike Keneally) on the 10th anniversary of his passing.
A three-song encore of what Beller jokingly calls “songs we think we know” follows, with the prog-funk Ohhhh Noooo, fan favourite_ Bad Asteroid_ and the scintillating Living The Dream tying a bow on a memorable show.
Since their ‘day job’ schedules with Steven Wilson and Joe Satriani will likely limit how extensively The Aristocrats will tour on their new album’s release, it’s advisable to catch the band live while you can – even if you have to cross the space-time continuum to do so.