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Album Review

You've got to admire a guy as restlessly creative as Mike Keneally. He felt he wasn't a very good improviser, so he started hanging out with Henry Kaiser and the free improv crowd in order to push himself toward improvising. He wanted another creative outlet, so he took up painting. After three studio albums and one live album, essentially in a trio format, he cut Nonkertompf completely by himself, playing every instrument. What to do next? How about expanding his working band, Beer for Dolphins, from a trio to an octet? That's exactly what he did, adding sax, trumpet, keys, mallet percussion, and a second guitar to his guitar, bass, and drums lineup. The results are somewhat mixed. As always, Keneally is as eclectic as ever, and some of these tunes are as catchy as anything he's put out. "We'll Be Right Back" is kind of a resigned, low-key rant that features an absolutely majestic guitar solo. "Joe" has a serious Steely Dan vibe, while the clunky riff that kicks off the album on "Live in Japan" recalls early XTC with hooks aplenty. The problem is that with such a large band the arrangements can be very busy, nearly claustrophobic at times, and it takes a lot of listening effort to sort out what's going on. That type of effort is ultimately rewarding, but not every listener wants to listen that attentively. Also, the mere presence of mallet percussion draws too many comparisons to Keneally's former mentor (Frank Zappa), justified or not. That being said, this is a crack band able to play through Keneally's often idiosyncratic tunes seemingly with the greatest of ease. Dancing is a bit of a departure for Keneally. There are some excellent tracks, to be sure, but this probably isn't the place to start.

Top Albums and Songs by Beer for Dolphins

Dancing, Beer for Dolphins
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