Klark Kent – Kollected Works

Klark Kent - Kollected WorksEven if you were unaware that Klark Kent is, in fact, a pseudonym for Stewart Copeland, it would be difficult to listen to Kollected Works without thinking of The Police. The heavy reggae/ska influence and experimental attitude so prevalent in The Police’s early work (and almost entirely excised by the time of Synchronicity) are found in spades here. Copeland founded the Police and was responsible for most of the early songwriting, until Sting’s prolific nature (and, let’s face it, greater overall songwriting skill) took over. These recordings date from that earlier time, with most of them seeing original release around 1978/9 as an outlet for Copeland, already feeling boxed in by the band.

While the music itself has a lot in common with early Police, the lyrics really do take a different path. The more socially aware nature of the Police material gives way instead for the absurd or the downright silly. And even the production is more absurd, with voiceovers from a secretary pool and kazoos in the mix. If you’ve heard Police songs like “Any Other Day” (from Regatta de Blanc) you’ll be aware of Copeland’s, shall we say, unique vocal stylings. While I normally wouldn’t want an album full of Copeland vocals, the combination of vocals, lyrics and production on the Klark Kent material works.

If the songs have one failing in common, it’s that they lack polish. Most tend to just sort of peter out, rather than have any kind of proper ending. Just as Sting’s Police re-makes have lacked the depth of the original recordings, Copeland without Sting and Andy Summers feels somewhat shallow. But I’m a sucker for a one-man album, myself. For me, an interesting odyssey into original territory trumps careful, planned production any day.

rating: 4 out of 4Ultimately, I think it goes without saying that if you’re a fan of Stewart Copeland or The Police (especially the more obscure tracks and B-sides) you need this album. Reggae and ska fans will find plenty to enjoy here as well, perhaps more than on any Police material. Also, if you enjoy experimental music-making, you should give Kollected Works a listen.

Order this CD

  1. Too Kool To Kalypso (2:28)
  2. Strange Things (2:42)
  3. Thrills (2:23)
  4. Excesses (3:02)
  5. Love Lessons (3:30)
  6. Office Girls (2:18)
  7. Away From Home (2:57)
  8. Don’t Care (2:10)
  9. Grandelinquent (3:10)
  10. My Old School (2:45)
  11. Ritch In A Ditch (2:29)
  12. Theme For A Kinetic Ritual (4:21)
  13. Stay Ready (3:03)
  14. Office Talk (6:50)
    Guerilla (hidden track – 3:29)

Released by: I.R.S.
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 48:08

Frank Klepacki – Rocktronic

Frank Klepacki - RocktronicFrank K. is back in the house, and this time he’s kicking the doors down and knocking the walls flat. Unlike his solo debut Morphscape, Rocktronic is a little more similar stylistically from track one to track ten. And that’s cool – I loved some of Morphscape‘s more off-the-wall offerings like “Gonna Rock Yo Body” and “Cosmic Lounge”, but if Rocktronic proves anything, it’s that Frank Klepacki’s always got more musical ideas rattling around. And for those of us who learned about his music through his hard-driving accompaniment to some classic Westwood computer games (and I’d hazard a guess that this category probably includes almost everybody reading this), Rocktronic is homecoming week for you – it easily lives up to its name.

And the title should give you a pretty good clue of what to expect. Guitars are to the forefront of Rocktronic, and Klepacki demonstrates some impressive ability at that instrument. The opening volley, “Decible”, lives up to its name. The following track, “Rocktronic”, is probably the best fusion of rock and techno elements on the whole CD, with some mighty crunchy guitar work melding seamlessly with the techno elements. “Escape” feels a little bit like “Mode One” from Morphscape, only more aggressive and drum-driven, but the similarity is in some dandy throwback-to-the-’80s synth work. In Yo Face has both feet firmly in industrial/techno territory, and it’s best appreciated at a level where the speakers rumble the foundation of your house. Seriously. Headphones don’t quite do it justice.

“Take Me” has a very cool, laid back bluesy opening that leads into an extended hard rock jam on the same theme. There’s a nifty ’70s stadium rock guitar solo vibe to the whole thing. It Has Begun is more of an aggressive dance number, with the sampled voice yelling “It has begun!” Mortal Kombat-TV-ad-style hearkening back to some of Frank’s Command & Conquer work. “The Streets” and “In The Tunnel” almost sound like lost cuts from the Lexx music library, which isn’t a bad thing. The Streets has a little more of a Euro/electronica thing going, while “In The Tunnel” has the dramatic intensity of a soundtrack cue bubbling under the surface.

“Machines Collide” has an epic feel that hails back to some of the better Emperor: Battle For Dune tracks, with sampled choral textures and an interesting sonar-as-percussion element that I liked – it’s probably my favorite track on the CD, with “Take Me” running a close second. “Bring The Fight” closes things 4 out of 4out by jumping right back into hard rock territory, which brings us full circle.

On the one hand, I really missed the roller-coaster variety of styles that made Morphscape a lot of fun – but you can’t argue against Rocktronic‘s dominant style being the one that won Klepacki his fan base to begin with, and it’s still great music.

Order this CD

  1. Decible (4:32)
  2. Rocktronic (3:57)
  3. Escape (4:11)
  4. In Yo Face (3:42)
  5. Take Me (4:58)
  6. It Has Begun (4:06)
  7. The Streets (4:02)
  8. In The Tunnel (3:47)
  9. Machines Collide (4:42)
  10. Bring The Fight (4:28)

Released by: Frank Klepacki
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 42:27

Frank Klepacki – Morphscape

Frank Klepacki - MorphscapeAfter seven years of churning out the hard-hitting accompaniment for Electronic Arts’ Command & Conquer series of real-time strategy games (among others) and releasing over half a dozen albums’ worth of material attached to computer games, not to mention stints with Las Vegas bands like Home Cookin’ and Mo’ Friction, Frank Klepacki is flying solo – and proving there’s more to his repertoire than being EA’s own C&C music factory. Klepacki flexes his signature funk-techno muscle on such tracks as “Defunkt” and “Freaks From Within”, but delves into some new territory, including lounge music and even the glorious vintage ’70s throwback that is “Gonna Rock Yo Body”. In a true tribute to the roller disco era, “Rock Yo Body” features “robotic” vocoder-processed vocals, synth-string stabs, and the kind of cheesy electronic percussion you’d expect from the late ’70s and early ’80s. And the beauty of it is, it works. If you, like me, grew up during that era…this song will give you a thrill of recognition and a goofy grin. It’s good cheese, a nice little trip back to the day when Grandmaster Flash was considered new, not old-school. “Gonna Rock Yo Body” is an unlikely candidate for the best song on the whole CD, but if you’re already acquainted with Frank Klepacki’s body of game work, this track should jump out and grab you because it demonstrates what he can do outside of that genre. “Mode One” shifts into new wave gear with an ever-so-slight nod in the direction of early, pre-drenched-with-samples Depeche Mode. By the end of the album, you’ve gotten to hear so many styles and distinctive pieces that you’re not left thinking “Hey, this stuff all sounds exactly like 4 out of 4Command & Conquer!”

I’ve been lobbying for someone to tap Frank Klepacki for something more than just a short film, and I still think someone should. But he won’t hear me complain if he keeps turning out solo material too, because Morphscape rocks.

Order this CD

  1. Morphscape (5:21)
  2. Blaster (4:43)
  3. Freaks From Within (5:08)
  4. Cybertek (3:12)
  5. Mode One (4:03)
  6. Gonna Rock Yo Body (3:23)
  7. Cosmic Lounge (5:12)
  8. Morphunk (3:47)
  9. Defunkt (2:42)
  10. Virus (4:47)

Released by: FrankKlepacki.com
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 42:18