Available for the first time in the U.S. is the 1994 sci-fi rock classic Giant Robot by the anonymous shredder known as Buckethead (who paints his face white and wears a chicken bucket on his head). Buckethead has played with Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins (both of whom appear on this album), Primus, John Zorn, George Clinton, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to name a very few. A past reviewer for WhatzUp panned a Buckethead album, claiming that it was all flash (he is a guitarist so I suspect he's a bit jealous) but I found quite a bit of substance in Giant Robot, albeit very bizarre substance not known to humankind. Stylistically, expect everything from raw Sabbath power riffs to Zappa meets Malmsteen metal licks that suddenly swoop into heartrending symphonic passages complete with a real string section. Each infectiously wacky track is a melodic instrumental, soundtracks for extreme rides at his imaginary theme park Bucketheadland, though strange cinematic episodes appear between and within many of the pieces. A small example: "Of course we have wax horse teeth, what kind of operation do you think we're running here?"
There is a sci-fi/comic book theme of battling giant robots (this was originally released in Japan) and the associated unique noises, not to mention the robot voice singing "Pure Imagination" from the movie Willie Wonka. Fans of Randy Rhodes-style guitar will find a lot to enjoy of this album with the dazzling "Welcome to BucketheadLand" and the Cheap Trick pop feel of "Binge and Grab." Then there's the grinding guitar riffs of "I Come In Peace" where a giant Buckethead Robot riffs through the city, destroying chicken restaurants with his giant guitar. "I Love My Parents" lends a soft moment to this "film" with a beautiful, touching melody carried by acoustic guitar and string section, but this doesn't last long because the ride soon plummets into the Primus-tinged bass mania of "Robot Transmission." The album ends with the melancholy "Last Train to BucketheadLand" with a conductor pointing out the various rides while he slowly loses touch with reality. Buckethead is seriously cracked, which is why I heartily recommend this album to fans of Primus, Mr. Bungle, Zappa, and general seekers of unique musical experiences.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, November 2000.