Blue Man Group: The Complex

[1 May 2003]

By Daniel Mitchell

We all know the Blue Man Group, either from their albums, their countless appearances on television (including commercials, talk shows, music stations, etc.), or just about anywhere else one looks. The group’s music is a mix of tribal drumming, theatrical metal guitars, and various pop culture “cool” things (like scratching on turntables). Their look can be described rather easily: corny. They fashion themselves as some weird blue robot things, whose only purpose on the planet is to play music on enormous tubes with drumsticks. Their eyes are perpetually glazed in insanity, and they seem to be totally focused on their goal: music. In reality, their eyes are glazed thinking about the stack of cash they will gather from each over-dramatic performance; while they seem to speak little, these guys walk softly and carry an enormous shtick.

To be frankly honest, though, the songs on The Complex make for the best collection music I’ve ever heard the Blue Man Group tackle before. One of my best friends owns a Blue Man Group DVD, and while entertaining in some respects, the “music” on it was rather samey and boring. The fact that this album comes off better than things they’ve done in the past may lie in the fact that many of the tracks here are actually cover songs; the press sheet that came with The Complex didn’t really make things clear, but I recognized “White Rabbit” as being a Jefferson Airplane song. The BMG also do a rendition of the wonderful “Up to the Roof”, giving that song its second major cover in the last couple of years (the Get Up Kids have covered it recently).

Another aspect of The Complex that makes it more commercially appealing is the structure of the songs. Many of the songs here feature standard song structures, i.e. “verse, chorus, verse”, making BMG’s less bizarre and transparent. The weird tube instruments they play are still loud and in charge, and I must admit that I like the sounds that they make. The tribal drumming that often accompanies the tubes is also a welcome sound, as the trade off between the two sounds is rather fascinating. Vocals wise, the well structured songs are strengthened even more by a cast of well known and celebrated singers, including Dave Matthews, Rob Swift, and Venus Hum. I hadn’t looked at the press sheet while I was listening to the first time, and when “Sign Along” came on, I was flabbergasted at how these blue people could make their voices sound like that of Dave Matthews; obviously, I was being a moron.

While this is an improvement over their music from the past, I can’t see myself listening to this, ever. Were it to be accompanied with the visuals of the band, playing their weird tubes with all of the fantastic colors that incorporate their live show, I would be more inclined to pop this in every once in a while. As it stands, though, it comes down to one simple fact: the Blue Man Group plays soft-core alterna-metal with big drums. The tubes are interesting, and I like them quite a bit, but there’s just so much corniness on The Complex that I am unable to see through the shtick. I must refer you to “Time to Start”, a rather thunderous rock stomper, marred by silliness. A man repeatedly makes little statements, taking the listener through various “rock concert moves”. While I believe this is intended to be humorous, it just comes out sounding contrived and dumb. There are worse things you could spend you money on, but buy one of BMG’s DVD’s if you want to entertained by them; pass on this forgettable CD.

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