What Happens Next – Joe Satriani

Year: 2018

Genre: Instrumental Rock

Grade: B-

Joe Satriani has never been my favorite shredder.  Never found his music particularly interesting, which—even more than showmanship—is of utmost importance in guitar-wielding instrumental rock.

If we’re talking genre specifics, give me Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert over Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani any day.  And if we’re emerging out of the bubble, the only ones I’ll take willingly are Frank Zappa and Allan Holdsworth.

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What Happens Next is the aging Satriani’s sixteenth studio album, and at this point in his career he is content to coast on his talent until his fingers no longer bend.  Satriani takes the boring old-school approach here—these all sound like songs that could have been Canadian hits back in 1979.

Of course, with Satch behind the fretboard, it’s not all bad.  It’s just not that compelling.  There are many solos and riffs that find a groove and instantly connect, but there are many more that meander around aimlessly.  What’s more, and this has been a glaring problem since Surfing with the Alien, there’s plenty of corniness to go around.  Served with is side of neo-prog cheese.  Mmmm.

Luckily, ol’ bald Satch tacks on some winners toward the end—the Allman-meets-AOR of “Smooth Soul,” the speed-metal-comes-to-Kansas of “Headrush,” and the ZZ-Rush 7-minute centerpiece “Super Funky Badass” (which features solos too serious for such a title).

The only song worth replaying for a non-Satch fan like myself is the beautiful closer, “Forever and Ever,” a song that promises he can pull off face-melting guitar heroics…well…forever and ever.  Channeling all his idols, this is the only song on which Satriani’s true voice shines through.

What Happens Next is a statement, not a question.  With as many overdubs as there are reflections of himself on the album cover, he’ll give you an answer anyways—a practice sesh put to plastic and sold at a semi-reasonable price.

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