Joy Electric reigns on my top five list of favorite musical talents. With numerous releases to date, and several classic and well-defined albums at that, Ronnie Martin can always be counted on to put out something his old and new fans can appreciate it. The trick for him, however, has always been trying to appeal to listeners who seem averse to Martin's style, which has been defined as power synth pop. His cryptic lyrics also prove a stumbling block, even for me, as I try to meld together his melody and his words to form a better picture of the themes he attempts to communicate through Joy Electric. My Grandfather, The Cubist is Martin's tenth full-length album and serves as a sort of retrospective look at how far he has come as an artist, and how much his music has matured since its inception.
My Grandfather… starts off with "Victorian Intuition/Father Winter Replies" which is literally two songs merged into one. Ronnie has said he had originally created these two songs separately (and lastly) but something didn't sit quite right with him- so he melded them together and pushed it to the top as the album's beginning. The lyrics attempt to explain, in Ronnie's own words, "…the contrast between the entitlement generation versus the virtues of hard work." The song has a slow, dark intro which picks up half way through to a much more positive tone then echoes out in typical JE fashion. "Rudimentary Animation" is a catchy piece that showcases Martin's continual talent to create smooth yet haunting melodies, easily creating his own original style in the mix. This track quickly proves to be one of the better ones. The next seven tracks produce mixed results. Their simple and minimalist style seems to hold back a lot of what made JE's last album, The Otherly Opus/Memory of Alpha, so good. It's more or less a snowballing effect that really fails to create a better diversification and establishment of a polished sound. In other words, they all tend to run together, thus failing to rise above the mediocre- even for Martin.
"Prelude to Cubism" is the title-track's lead-in instrumental and warms up the listener for the best track on the record, "My Grandfather, The Cubist." With a more complex melody and effects-style, along with better and more prevalent vocal techniques, this song, like the first two, stand out in the JE hall of fame. It pulls the classic and mythical act which Martin has created down to a science - the ability for his music to "take the listener places." Coming off that, Martin again demonstrates his synth skills and closes with another instrumental, "Cubism Interlude."
Overall, the album is highlighted by a few tracks that really bring out the best in Martin and what he has done with Joy Electric. Unfortunately, and this is sad for even myself to write down, the middle chunk of the album isn't memorable enough to make a name for itself as a whole. This is not to say the album is by any means a "waste," but rather a plateau for his musical abilities, allowing his album to rise above and take advantage even more that his last. In the end, while it doesn't explode onto the scene like last year's installment did, it does continue to prove that Joy Electric can still enlighten and enchant ten years later.- Review date: 7/8/08, written by Zachary Anderson
Record Label: Tooth & Nail Records
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