Sound: The always entertaining and oddly intriguing frontman Perry Farrell is back to start another musical experiment with his latest band Satellite Party, and he takes another step away from the Jane's Addiction sound that gained him notoriety. This is not to say that the band's debut Ultra Payloaded can't stand on it's own merits. Farrell has chosen to go in a lot of different directions on the CD, touching on everything from dance music to moody, introspective offerings, and ex-Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt is along for the unusual ride this time around.
If there's one track on Ultra Payloaded that sounds like the quintessential Perry Farrell song, it's most likely Only Love, Let's Celebrate. In most interviews he gives these days, he is very passionate about spreading the message that life is a party where we should all love each other. Only Love, Let's Celebrate may no be the most inspired or original track on Ultra Payloaded, it does convey Farrell's idea that life is a celebration of love, understanding, and musical expression (check out his thoughts to read his always-intriguing thoughts). It is a catchy and energetic track, but the celebration of love theme might be a bit too much for the average listener.
If you've heard Nuno Bettencourt's playing in the past, then you're probably aware that he's a pretty phenomenal guitarist. So what is really incredible is his ability to know when to rein the guitar in and when to shred. In a song like Kinky you get a taste of his amazing solo skills, then in The Solutionists he takes a cleaner, more traditional blues approach in the vein of Eric Clapton. It's that flexibility that allows each song to take on a different life and really keeps the CD interesting. The pairing of Farrell and Bettencourt oddly enough works really well.
The record actually gets stronger with each song, and you'll eventually even get to a Jane's Addiction-like track that could have easily been released back on Nothing's Shocking. Insanity Rains is the best track, featuring Bettencourt's most impressive riff work and a bass line that is reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not every song leaves an impression like Insanity Rains, but at the same time it doesn't feel like filler material either. // 8
Lyrics: Farrell's lyrics have definitely taken a dreamier, love-oriented approach since the early '90s. The singer has always been considered a bit eccentric, and his lyrics often represent that fascinating side. Wish Upon A Dog Star shows off Farrell's his one-of-a-kind view of life when he sings, I'm a comin' in on lust and resurgence; With all my love I overflow the river Nile; Rolling on for thousands of miles; We can celebrate your inner horizon. That descriptive quality is present in many of the songs and does add to the larger-than-life, often ritualistic sound that is present on the CD. // 8
Overall Impression: Satellite Party went all-out for it's debut release, with several guest performers showing up -- even the dearly departed Jim Morrison. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea and John Frusciante show up on Milky Ave (a track reflecting the mellower side of the Peppers) and Fergie makes an appearance on Wish Upon A Dog Star. Morrison shows up on Women In The Window, which features him singing a previously unreleased track. If anything, it's fantastic to hear some new material from the Lizard King. Of course, Morrison's lyrics keep in line with Farrell's mission of love, so the darker side of The Doors is not necessarily represented in the lost track.
Ultra Payloaded has a polished, often grandiose feel (an orchestra was used on several songs) to it that may not always click with fans of Jane's Addiction, or even Extreme for that matter. But there are more than a few very impressive songs that have a lot of layers to them, which might take 2 or 3 listens to catch. The band actually didn't need to bring in a long list of A-list guests, particularly considering the best tracks are done without them. When you hear a track like The Solutionists or Insanity Rains, it's obvious that the veteran performers can still come up with fresh material -- even if it's a far cry from the music they made over a decade ago. // 8