The Machete – Chronicles Of Ridiculous – Album Review
Last time we checked into The Machete, they encouraged us to Take Dos with an EP full of vibrant instrumentals & ideas that really stood-out to my ears. Unique and apart from almost everything else out there today – The Machete make a highly-skilled, precise and captivating style of music that always reveals the amount of passion the UK-based band puts into their every move. Take Dos was an early EP that already showed a massive amount of promise and potential for this band – and now here we are, nearly a full-year later, they’ve got their new album Chronicles Of Ridiculous and they’re set out to prove that the entertainment you discovered with The Machete the first time around was no fluke at all.
These guys deserve a lot of credit for the undertaking of music that requires as much proficiency as this does and the fact that we can still enjoy ourselves while we listen. It’s often intricate, highly-skilled music that can lose the ‘average listener’ out there if it goes too far overboard into its ideas and becomes something more pretentious – but you really don’t get that with The Machete. I’m sure from the album cover for Chronicles Of Ridiculous you can tell that even though they’re tremendously talented musicians – they don’t let themselves take anything too seriously. That being said, clearly when it comes time to make some music, they get right in the zone and focus – The Machete always brings their best but the real magic lies within their secret of making it all sound like an enormous amount of fun at the same time. These guys are right at home within the sound/style of The Machete.
Shout-outs by name…again, they deserve it. You’ve got Dominic Vermeulen-Smith (Lead Guitar), Matt Hallett (Rhythm Guitar), John Deacon (Bass) and Sam Brawn (Drums) all combining their abilities impressively throughout the eight songs that line their new record, Chronicles Of Ridiculous. Six of those songs are brand-new to me and to us all; the two others are continued explorations of songs we heard on the Take Dos EP, redone & refreshed here to fit the new album good’n’proper. Let’s do this!
I fully believe you’ll hear what I do when it comes to the music of The Machete – so much opportunity exists for songs and sounds like this because they ARE that different from the rest of what’s going on out there. Dedicated diehards for instrumental music will no doubt be able to cite a few comparisons I’m sure – but for the most part, they’d still have to admit that what you hear in this band isn’t comparable to most instrumental bands either, The Machete really does their own thing. That being said…you can often hear the influence of world-music of all kinds…Spanish, Russian, North American to say the least and no doubt, there’s a bit of their own homeland of the UK in there somewhere too; the point being that you’ll often hear familiarity in the music of The Machete…but what you recognize would often be right at the core roots of a traditional sound you might associate with an entirely different country or part of the world. The music of The Machete can really take you out of your own world and into their own – and aside from the wicked journey their music will take you on, it’s also a real testament to how captivating and unique the songs they write can be…this is really what writers mean when they’re referring to a band’s ‘signature style.’ If you can’t come out of listening to Chronicles Of Ridiculous with the ability to identify The Machete by their music alone…well…then you’re clearly attempting to listen with the wrong holes on your body.
The opening track “El Booto” makes for a perfect beginning with the instruments slowly introducing themselves into the mix before the impressive switch into the meat of the rhythm creeps up on you thirty-seconds into the song. Before a minute in, you’re already locked into a seriously impressive and memorable first jam and The Machete’s new album is off and running in a full-on sprint through serious instrumentation and a really wild set of grooves. Guitars stand-out for their precision, rhythm and tone…the drums immediately for the crispness to their sound…and the bass…perhaps the unsung hero of “El Booto” but what Deacon is bringing to the bass-lines is absolutely extraordinary. What I really like about this guy in particular is that even when left with notes that serve more to thicken the overall strength in the sound or melody, he still plays even the most basic parts with pure passion you can truly hear – and as far as ‘basic-parts’ go, like with all the players in this band, there really aren’t that many. Listen to the incredible breakdowns, solos and different ways they innovate their sound around the three-minute mark and you’ll get a great sense of how this band is able to create the impact they make through their music – there is ALWAYS something interesting going on & something wild to listen to. “El Booto” has them stepping out confidently into their Chronicles Of Ridiculous with the presence of adventure & good-times at the helm of their sound, leading the way into the album.
With shouts of the purest glee and exuberance – “Nana McBangin’” is a freakin’ great tune to bring people into this record and a great choice to have up-front, early-on in the album. Again starting out subtly…slowly…the opening melody and playing of “Nana McBangin’” sounds absolutely stunning as it all begins to swirl together and transition to the main-ideas that drive the song. Really listen to the way this band moves from piece to piece, instrument to instrument…because it’s truly impressive. The Machete is extraordinarily gifted when it comes to their writing, structure and assembly in the way their songs move and shift – you can hear each instrument and player get their own time to shine in the spotlight for solos on “Nana McBangin,’” but what ends up being most impressive is how naturally they sound as they flow from one part to the next. An early highlight on the record that certainly showcases the amount of thought & effort they put into their music, “Nana McBangin’” really displays how The Machete do what they do so damn well. Check out the early-release of the demo for this track performed LIVE to get an idea of what you’re in for!
They carry the energy into the wildly-intricate sounds of “Sex And Microwaves” – another track I couldn’t help but hear as an early highlight on Chronicles Of Ridiculous. The guitars in this track are insane in the best of ways…and the rhythm section between the stand-out ideas on the drums & bass absolutely kills it – this is great! “Sex And Microwaves” is the kind of song that absolutely pulls you right in to listen to it – and MAN does this mother MOVE! The incredible amount of versatility and dynamics in this one song will impress you from the various tempos they play at to the stunning definition they’ve put into each part as the song progresses through its length. Really great ideas in the rhythm & melody here – but also notice how Brawn smartly places the percussion in this tune and the clever way that he accents the melody through brilliant choices from atop the drum-throne. While this might sound like a trivial thing to point-out for some – I assure you it’s not; when it comes to instrumental music, it’s differences like this that give our ears that ‘something’ we’re looking to listen to where we’d normally expect vocals…it’s the constant attention to detail that The Machete has that makes them great.
Best way that I can put all this stuff I think about The Machete can probably be summed-up by describing how I feel about “Maurice The Bodyguard.” On a somewhat surface-level, I can simply sit back and enjoy the music & melodies that are contained within it and appreciate the way it moves, transitions and grooves perfectly as it plays. That’s one way I can listen to The Machete.
Or I can put on my ‘musician’ hat for a second and give myself a raging music-chubby by listening to the amount of skill, precision, heart and passion that they play with! “Maurice The Bodyguard” is loaded with unbelievable parts & unique timings to its rhythm & flow that make it absolutely extraordinary to listen to. A song like this is where you can best hear the progressive instincts they have in their writing – but again, due to the uniqueness & brightness of their rhythms, style and sound – it never goes overboard into a pretentious place…it all sounds incredibly committed, well-played, and best of all – REAL.
The Machete have real insight on how to make their music exciting to the ears and they manage to make it all sound so impressively effortless while amazingly intricate, all at the same time. A perfect example of how this all really works in their favor comes through the next two songs, “Pirate Booty” and “A Lad In His Cave.” Whether it’s a pirate-song, a sea-shanty or a maritime limerick…once a sound tends to go near the water or an ocean in its style, theme or sound…I tend to run for the hills. Don’t know what it is exactly…just a case of we all like what we like I suppose…I’ve just never found a way to connect to much of what I’d consider to be ‘piratey’ – but that could very well just be me. I was still just as impressed with the musicianship and performance on “Pirate Booty” overall…in a few ways I felt like it was a bit less challenging for themselves personally, but a song that would likely still prove to be a massive challenge to ANYONE else…so really, I can’t complain about stuff like that. Just because it may/may-not be easier for them doesn’t make it any better/worse by comparison…but that being said that air of familiarity in their sound comes through more clearly on this track than most any other. I suppose that’s another way of saying that what we hear sounds closer to things we’ve heard before…and I think that’s what made “Pirate Booty” different from the rest for me. The recognizable influences become more pronounced over the album’s fifth & sixth song…even though they still possess The Machete magic and extraordinary talent, my ears are always looking for more ‘them’ in their music than anything else. “A Lad In His Cave” (aka “Arabian Nights/Prince Ali”) is certainly a brilliant take on what we know from the Disney classic…and really…another tune that’s hardly worth complaining about. It’s not The Machete’s fault that I grew up with a brother that watched about five movies on repeat each and every day of his life for about eight of our years together and that one of those movies just happened to be Aladdin. To say that I’ve seen the movie nearly 250 times would honestly probably be short of the total amount of times I’ve watched it…so…again…I can’t fault The Machete for their ability, style or even song-choice – this still works really well for what they do. Potentially opens the doors wide-open for them in other ways as well – “A Lad In His Cave” shows their ability to adapt ideas into their own style & sound and I think that’s a really strong attribute to have in your music…the ability to adapt. For most people out there that have taken in Aladdin the ‘normal’ amount of times, somewhere in the region of 1-5 viewings I’d reckon…for anyone out there like that, I’d assume the familiarity and comfort of the recognizable tune of “A Lad In His Cave” would be more than welcome to their ears.
For myself personally, again, what I like best about The Machete is when they find their own grooves and really stretch themselves creatively. They can easily turn their music into true art at any time they want to with the way they write their music like a painter fills a canvas with bright colors. So for me – even coming back to the two songs I knew from The Machete from Take Dos still felt like they had a bit more to offer my own ears compared to the two songs I hadn’t heard yet just before them. Definitely two of the highlights from their former EP, bringing back “Casa” and “No Eye” were brilliant choices to add into their Chronicles Of Ridiculous and really highlight the incredible relationship their music has between its instrumentation. “Casa” sounds fantastic once again…brightened-up a bit in the mix and a bit more intense than I even remember it being – I really love the definition between the songs main parts and the way this song drifts dreamily along in its quieter moments but has a polar-opposite energy within the same track that gives it a vibrant second-life. A real highlight in their catalog and every bit of the reason as to why you want to test out a few songs on an EP that could potentially be included on a full record – “Casa” fits right in on this album and serves as another strong highlight on this record too.
“No Eye” was one of my favorites from the Take Dos EP as well – and perhaps one of the strongest tracks that best represents what The Machete is really all about. With its wild combination of guitar/bass rhythm, percussion-grooves and shouts of enthusiasm along the way – on “No Eye” you can really close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to experience these guys as a LIVE band. The amount of versatility and uniqueness can quite often be astounding when it comes to The Machete’s music – and I still think “No Eye” really puts that right at the forefront on display. Love the amount of imagination in their music and think that they’ve made a great choice to end Chronicles Of Ridiculous with this particular song. Also revitalized to suit the production of their new album and perhaps touched-up to add-in a few new ideas into it as well – if my memory serves me correctly, they’ve really beefed-up the ending of “No Eye” in particular. With additional presence added into their music for the last thirty seconds of this tune – they’ve switched it up one last time to end the album with real impact and on one of its strongest moments.
The Machete has shown & proven just how diverse, dynamic and unique they can be over the span of eight songs on Chronicles Of Ridiculous and truly offer the ears out there something different to listen to that they’re certainly to enjoy taking-in. It’s really bold, vibrant material that seriously stands-out – you’ll remember The Machete for their skill, their passion and their insightful songwriting – and chances are, like myself, you’ll look forward to hearing whatever they’ve got going-on next.
Find out more about The Machete at their official page: https://www.themachete.co.uk/