Mike Baron's take on the new BRYAN SCARY & THE SHREDDING TEARS!!!
Last year Bryan Scary’s eponymous debut made several top ten lists including this reporter’s. His oddball, piano-based compositions had roots in rock, chamber music, cabaret and glam in a way not seen since the heyday of the Beatles and/or ELO. That record’s first track, “Take a Stab at the Sun” was operatic in both thrills and structure. Scary recorded every instrument himself.
The new Shredding Tears is a six-piece band with another keyboard player. FLIGHT OF THE KNIFE begins with an elegant overture that segues into a soaring stomper about “an airship that would never sail,” changing keys and moods faster than a coked-up Robin Williams. Bryan Scary packs more melody in one song than the Counting Crows, Black Crowes, and Crows on all their albums. Not to pick on crows, but mainstream pop suffers from a paucity of melody. And no wonder. Bryan Scary’s got it all.
“Imitation of the Sky” burrows into your skull like the Moleman heading for Manhattan. The band broadens Scary’s palette and smooths out his rhythmic idiosyncrasies. “Imitation” showcases everything that makes Scary great: theatrical, technically challenging vocals, a bodacious melody with a Moby Dick-sized hook, extra choruses in strange keys, orchestral interludes and heavenly choruses. Following a weird rap in a Newsboy Legion voice (“We trusted ya…we believed in ya…and now we’re cryin’ our eyes out for ya!”) Lead guitarist Graham Norwood explodes into a frenzied solo that brings it all back home.
“The Curious Disappearance of The Sky Ship Thunder Man” weighs in with operetta strings until Scary takes the lead in cabaret mode comping himself on piano. “The Purple Rocket” begins with the sounds of ignition from which emerges a bright and shiny theme trailing a perfect hook, trailing a Rick Wakeman-like freak-out. The song—the whole record—is like The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Every time you think you’ve heard the climactic catharsis, Scary reaches into his hat and pulls out another trick. In the case of “The Purple Rocket” you won’t believe where you end up.
“The Zero Light” is another instant and unforgettable classic with a hint of reggae, the unbearable sweetness of the tonic and chorus giving way to a hard rock exchange you might expect from the Drive-By Truckers. “Son of Stab” reprises the theme from “Take a Stab at the Sun” as a launching pad for a series of rhythmic variations that slaps five with Blood, Sweat, and Tears before evolving into a bluesy vamp.
“Heaven on a Bird” is a ballad of shimmering beauty combining insistent, whiny electric guitar with an astral chorus. “Flight of the Knife Part Two” suggests Jellyfish in its lush intro—a fake-out! Scary starts singing over acoustic guitar, picks up the band on the second chorus. The song unfolds in a series of barrel-house blues, vaudeville vocals and a horn section. Dag. I wasn’t going to comment on every song. But every song looms large against the Liliputian landscape.
BRYAN SCARY & THE SHREDDING TEARS - FLIGHT OF THE KNIFE is an instant classic and certain to be in my Top Ten list for the year.
To hear sound clips or --gasp--even order a copy, click here!