Brooklynite Bryan Scary’s latest album is too too. Too what? Too everything. Leaving off not far from the style of his solo debut album, The Shredding Tears, an album which showed flashes of Scary brilliance, I can only assume Bryan Scary decided he needed more of everything. So this time around, his touring band, the Shredding Tears, has recorded the album with him. And musically, he’s injected every sort of imaginable sound into any lulls lasting for more than two seconds. The end result is as mind-scrambling and ridiculous as his musical moniker.
The heavily marketed “Imitation of the Sky” has a lot of potential. In fact, before the needless backing vocals kick in, it’s almost a good song. Things just get worse from that point, however, and the end of the song coalesces into a chaotic mess of cloying voices. It’s not just bad, it’s grating.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album follows the same formula:
basic pop song +
prog & glam rock accouterments +
layers of effects and backing vocals =
The Flight of the Knife.
This might not be so bad if any part of the formula were not a complete rip off of another musician, but this simply isn’t the case.
Scary loves his influences and is never at a loss for someone to imitate. The Beatles, David Bowie, Queen, Elton John, Of Montreal, Rush — yes, Rush — are each raped mercilessly throughout the album. Mindless imitation is never a good thing, but the results are worse still when the charlatan in question can’t even decide whom he should rip off. There is no smelting of styles here, just musical schizophrenia recorded over a dozen tracks.
“Purple Rocket” alone channels the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Rush, the Beach Boys again, Rush again, and, finally, Of Montreal. Whew! I’m tired just thinking of it. But one thing Scary does possess is oodles of energy. Never underestimate the potent combination of manic energy and a compulsive tendency for imitation; just when you think there can’t possibly be room for any more affected vocals, or yet another change of style, there they are: both of them, at the same time. On top of each other.
Of course, these layers upon layers of effects can’t cover up the lack of quality pop songs beneath them. In fact, they make it worse. Stripped down, the songs would simply be mediocre snoozes, but with the added layers they become incorrigibly irritating. It’s like dumping the entire jar of Smuckers on a burnt piece of toast. Your best bet is to just chuck it and get a brand new piece of bread.
Only one song escapes these superfluous aural dressings. “The Curious Disappearance of the Sky-Ship Thunder-Man” is, while not exactly great, still redeemable. Scary has great skill in arranging and playing music. But again, this track sounds like Yes opening a Beatles ballad with dubbed snippets of Of Montreal placed strategically at its end. Even so, the song is a wee redemptive oasis in the midst of a writhing musical catastrophe.
Scary is obviously a technically-talented musician, but his own ideas and influence are too hollow and fleeting to combat the copycat sounds of his music. Likewise, he possesses an exquisite voice — which he uses only to sound like other people (generally Paul McCartney). These two things highlight the overriding problem with The Flight of the Knife: Scary never manages to channel himself. Not once has he contributed anything new, nor anything authentically Scary. You could argue that Scary exists only to arrange the talents of others into slick but depthless collages. You might be right. And in that case, Bryan Scary will indeed have accomplished the fantastic, for he has then made himself irrelevant.