Mike Keneally — Boil That Dust Speck
(Exowax 2302, 1995/2010, CD)
by Mike Borella, 1995-07-01:
Mike Keneally's first album (entitled hat, released in 1992) was an eclectic mix of humor, musicianship, and rock-n-roll. This former Zappa stunt guitarist can shred with the best of them, and his quirky, off-beat song-writing style (and subject matter) can be appreciated on more than the surface level. Not unlike Zappa, his compositions are not always overtly complex; instead, they take rock music in a few new directions and twist it a little (or a lot) along the way. This release, comprised of 30 (!) tracks, is not as immediately humorous nor as immediately musical as hat. At the surface it is moody and dark, with heavy riffing, and a modern rock feel. Further listenings will reveal some interesting and advanced song structures, yet little all-out jamming. For the most part, the songs are three-piece compositions with Keneally on guitars and vocals, backed by bass and drums. The many tracks of this disc run together, so it is hard to pick a few out to comment on. The only one that sticks out in my mind is "Faithful Axe," which is an elaborate parody of Yes. Keneally screeches nonsense-lyrics over a patchwork of Yes guitar and keyboard snippets. As you might expect by now, I'll have to admit that the drumming is not up to snuff on all of the tracks. The music would sound fuller with more than the snare-bass pounding that is featured throughout much of this disc. I would recommend hat over this album as an introduction to Keneally's work (or check out one of Zappa's '88 tour live sets), however Boil That Dust Speck has a charm of its own. Recommended.
by Mike Grimes, 1995-07-01:
In a genre dominated by long tracks, fantastical lyrical content and a far too serious posture, it's nice to see someone go against the grain. Keneally has put together an album that has 30 tracks (of which the longest is five minutes!), lyrics relating to events that happen to everyone in everyday life, and has managed to convey in his music much of the humor and light hearted emotions apparent in the quite entertaining and descriptive CD liner notes. This gives the album a feel that makes it easy to relate to. Keneally handles all the guitar, most of the vocals, and keyboards on the album – not to mention stints on percussion, bass, and a variety of other odd instruments. Most of the tracks are based around a standard guitar/bass/drums instrumentation, with other instruments embellishing. Keneally relies on the guitar for most of the harmonic framework of the songs, although he does occasionally draw on the support of the keyboards. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly who or what he sounds like. As far as the guitar playing and songwriting, there is certainly a prevalent Zappa influence. There are equally as many songs, however that remind me of Todd Rundgren, and a lot that bring King's X to mind. The vocals to remind me of Todd – or maybe a cross between Todd and Kevin Gilbert. One of my favorite tracks on the album, "Faithful Axe," is a hilarious Yes tribute romp containing every lick Steve Howe ever played combined with typically esoteric Jon Anderson style lyrics sung in an imitation Jon voice, and he fits in all these licks in less than one and a half minutes. Steve Howe would be most impressed! Fans of Zappa, Rundgren, and King's X should like this album, as well as fans of other harder rock bands – a lot of fun songs which have some really great grooves.
by Rob Walker, 1995-07-01:
Having made his solo debut in 1992 with the fantastic Hat, Mike Keneally returns with his second album of bizarre and unique musical entertainment. A member of Frank Zappa's '88 touring band, Keneally has more recently been involved in various Zappa tribute concerts and played in the band Z with Zappa's sons Dweezil and Ahmet. His virtuosic guitar skills combined with his zany sense of humor and his eclectic stylistic influences made him a natural choice for Zappa's group, and on his own, simply make for some really fun listening. Boil That Dust Speck is perhaps even more diverse that Hat, but overall the music flows better, and the tunes are better connected into an almost stream of consciousness picture of Keneally's creativity. The strongest stylistic influences are probably metal and RIO, but musically anything is possible, and all is blended together into a fascinating whole which is not particularly easy to define, except by saying it sounds like Keneally. His distinctive and often densely layered vocals grace perhaps half of this album, leaving the rest open for virtuosic instrumental diversions. Prog fans will probably be quick to pick up on Keneally's Yes tribute/parody; a recitation of the lyrics to "The Gates of Delirium" accompanied by a rapid-fire collage of practically every Yes guitar lick from the Relayer album and beyond. But scattered among such gimmicks are more serious tunes, which show once again that Keneally can both write and play some very complex, and very good material. Supported by a revolving cast of drummers, bassists, and a few others, Keneally handles the guitar, keyboard, and most of the vocal chores himself. Some of the more intricately composed music on this album may be reminiscent of Zappa's busy and angular style, and Mike even gives a nod to Zappa's fondness for "conceptual continuity" in a few places, but the majority of this album is Keneally's uniquely identifiable brand of musical fun. So even while delivering some of the more complex music you'll hear this year, Boil That Dust Speck answers Zappa's albeit rhetorical question "Does Humor Belong In Music?" with a resounding yes.
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