Left in charge of their own records, guitar virtuosos are infamous for athletic maneuvers (read: wanking) that fly right over the head of your average listener.
But Buckethead, the poultry-loving man of mystery who quit Guns N' Roses II last year, is not your average virtuoso, of course. His latest disc, Enter the Chicken, produced by System of a Down's Serj Tankian with airtight digital precision, contains some tunes readily accessible to laymen. "We Are One," with Tankian on vocals, is as schizoid and catchy as the nuttiest System of a Down tracks, while "Three Fingers," featuring poet-MC Saul Williams, sports some mutant riffs that are more precious now that Tom Morello is being wasted on Audioslave's disinterred freedom rock. And no Joe Satriani or Steve Vai album to date boasts guests as unconventional as Iranian singer Azam Ali, for whom Buckethead supplies delicate, droning arpeggios on "Coma."
But Enter the Chicken sports some formidable wankery as well: a grimacing solo here, a misplaced hard-funk bridge there, culminating in "Nottingham Lace," the kind of over-the-top, wah-wah-infested mess that only a crazed technique maven like Frank Zappa would love. Most non-guitar players would just as soon listen to some soothing white noise.