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splendid > reviews > 5/1/2003
Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group
The Complex
Lava


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "White Rabbit"

Buy me now
Blue Man Group's act, a combination of performance art and sideshow wackiness, marked an odd rebirth of populist high-ticket theater -- an apotheosis, of sorts, for all the would-be theater-goers who didn't think there was enough paint-throwing in Metamorphosis or Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Mindful of this success, the cerulean-skinned gents have expanded their coverage area, setting up a handful of Blue Man "franchises" in major US cities (not to mention London). They also released an album, Audio, highlighting the music that accompanies their performance; it's a unique mix of tribal drumming, plummy-sounding PVC instruments and more conventional backing. Depending upon your mood, it can also be quite dull to listen to when there aren't any Blue Men cavorting on stage.

Fortunately, for their second album (the one you're reading about right now), Blue Man Group have tinkered with the formula. They've added vocals, courtesy of a number of guest singing-people, and toughened up the rock'n'roll side of their music. As a result, The Complex is significantly more interesting than Audio.

Oh, wait -- no it isn't. Sorry.

While the distinctive aspects of the Group's sound remain -- to wit, the hollow, resonant plunks of the PVC instruments and the "wall of sound" drumming -- they've been teamed with tiresomely by-the-numbers guitar riffing, conventional pop-song structures and some half-hearted turntable action from Rob Swift. And vocals, of course -- from the likes of Dave Matthews, Tracy Bonham and a bunch of people who sound like better-known Alt-Rock Radio Approved artists. While a few of the songs -- like BMG's team-up with Esthero for a cover of "White Rabbit" -- may generate momentary interest, they all sound a little too much like commercial radio fodder, their quirks depressingly predictable. The high-profile vocalists aren't doing the same shtick they do for their day gigs (Matthews in particular), but that doesn't automatically make the whole thing interesting. It's more like an album-long wait for a good bit that never comes.

Still, perhaps we're wrong to expect edginess from Blue Man Group. Have you seen what they're charging for tickets these days?



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