Bumblefoot

Picture of Bumblefoot

Hands

Bumblefoot - Hands ©1998 Hermit
1. Hands
2. Swatting Flies
3. What I Knew
4. Shrunk
5. Dummy
6. Chair Ass
7. Noseplugs
8. Vomit
9. Brooklyn Steakhouse
10. Drunk
11. Backfur
12. Tuesday In Nancy
13. Dirty Pant'loons

While released under the Bumblefoot moniker, this album really is a Ron Thal album, with Ron writing, producing and performing all the songs with brother(?) Jeff on drums, and as such is a direct follow-up to Ron's Hermit album.

The music on this album is often compared to Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but these comparisons are quite off-base, as Thal is a much better-rounded and more interesting musician than all the members of RATM and RHCP put together. The songs allude to a wide variety of genres of rock, from punk ("Shrunk") to prog to metal to shred (the leads in "Dummy" and "Brooklyn Steakhouse" are completely impossible) to Zappa/Keneally rock ("Chair Ass") to rap ("Vomit") to death-reggae ("Brooklyn Steakhouse") to the Beatles ("Backfur") to grunge ("Tuesday in Nancy") to various styles in between, evoking Derek Taylor's solo work. The lyrics are often absolutely hysterical, with a deadpan delivery that only enhances their absurdity.

In spite of the silly lyrics, the overall atmosphere is rather dark, as it was on Hermit. While the genre hopping might be a little much to swallow at first, this album is full of interesting ideas and tremendous musicianship and will appeal to fans of stimulating metal-oriented lunacy.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 09/2001

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Uncool

Bumblefoot - Uncool ©2000 Hermit
1. Intro
2. Go
3. T-Jonez
4. My World Is You
5. Crunch
6. I Hate Me More Than I Love You
7. Kiss The Ring
8. Delilah
9. Dominated
10. R2
11. Ronald's Coming Back Now
12. Maricona
13. Mine
14. Heart Attack
15. Girl Like You
16. Finale
17. We Don't Care

Ron Thal's Bumblefoot returns with a new concept - a faux 70s lounge band playing rap/metal/rockabilly/funk/disco/Latin/oriental music. Most of the songs have a softer edge and switch genres less frantically than on his previous records, but Thal's insanity and outstanding musicianship are still plastered all over the album.

After a brief 70s lounge intro goofily showcasing Thal's remarkable vocals-to-come, the album's significantly harder first half starts off with a fast, brutal rap/metal number ("Go") peppered with one of Thal's impossible leads and a great melodic harmonized guitar break. But rap/metal is only one of the myriad stylistic elements that can be heard, as the next song ("T-Jonez") is a goofy loungey/Latin love song with poppy harmonized backup vocals, a Jamaican deathcore rap break and trumpets performed Bobby McFerrin-style - with no actual instrument. A sultry two-part Zappaesque low-voice spoken piece bookends an evil rockabilly song complete with slapback delay guitars, big band arrangements ("Crunch") and Thal's trademark Jamaican death rap break. The melodic "I Hate Me..." features a Latin melody, flutes and acoustic guitar break with a great melodic vocal bridge and chorus, a straight-from-the-hood rap break and some metal riffing in places.

"Kiss The Ring", which evokes Rage Against the Machine and Apostrophe-era Frank Zappa, marks the end of the harder first half and is followed by one of the album's best melodic tracks, the Spanish-y "Delilah", with an incredible bass line, Thal's best recorded vocals to date, and a really impressive flow overall. The second half of the album is full of brilliant melodic songs combining salsa and metal ("Ronald Is Coming Back Now"), Zappaesque instrumental sections and panned vocals (the extraordinary instrumental "R2"), funk and muzak flutes ("Mine"), Thalesque metal and superb Elvis Costello/Beatles-inspired strings ("Heart Attack"), and more genres than I should mention in this already overlong review.

While Ron Thal's overall musicianship and guitar virtuosity are far beyond comprehension, the most striking new feature on this album are Thal's melodic vocals, which are now absolutely outstanding in expressiveness, timbre, technique and variety. The confidence, versatility and power of his numerous delivery styles make some of the silliest lyrics this side of Weird Al Yankovic sound perfectly natural and convincing.

This is by very, very far the most amazing album I have heard in many months, and as such it must be obtained by all at any price. Fans of Faith No More should be the first in line.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 09/2001

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9-11

Bumblefoot - 9-11 ©2001 Hermit
1. Fly In The Batter
2. Lost
3. Raygun
4. Hole In The Sky
5. Children Of Sierra Leone
6. Don Pardo Pimpwagon
7. Legend Of Van Cleef
8. Guitars SUCK
9. Hall Of Souls
10. Top Of The World
11. R2
12. Time

This album rules. Buy it. Now.

I suppose I should probably tell you why this album rules. Let's start with a little history. Bumblefoot, the New York artist formerly known as Ron Thal, originally intended to release this album under the title Guitars Suck, but the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 made him reconsider and dedicate this album to the firefighters and other people involved in the rescue efforts. All the profits from the CD are donated to the American Red Cross.

Almost pre-sciently, as the songs were written and recorded before the attacks, the general atmosphere is very dark, not unlike his earlier album Hands, but in a mostly instrumental setting. The music has a clearly funky/hard rock/metal basis, and prominently features Bumblefoot's truly stupendous guitar antics and compositional and arranging prowess. The songs range from aggressive-cum-Zappaesque ("Lost", "R2") to emotional ("Hole in the Sky", "Children of Sierra Leone") to faux-pompous ("Guitars SUCK") to intimate ("Time") to soundtracky ("The Legend of Van Cleef", an orchestral number evoking some of Zappa's work), but are all unmistakably Bumblefoot-y. Nothing on this record is a cliché or formula; Bumblefoot's arrangements, melodies and guitar playing are remarkably inventive and exciting, and never suffer from showoffitis even at their most insane ("Guitars SUCK").

So what are you waiting for? I told you that this album rules. Buy it. Now. Even if you've never heard Bumblefoot. He'll open your mind and ears. And even if you don't like the music, which you definitely will, your money is going to a good cause, so there's really no excuse not to rush to www.bumblefoot.com and order a dozen copies for your friends and family.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 10/2002

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Normal

Bumblefoot - Normal ©2005 Bald Freak
1. Normal
2. Real
3. Turn Around
4. Rockstar For a Day
5. Overloaded
6. Pretty Ugly
7. The Color of Justice
8. Breaking
9. More
10. Awake
11. Life Inside Your Ass
12. Shadow
13. Thank You

After a decade traversing the world of shred rock and left field genre busting wackiness, Bumblefoot emerged in 2005 with what could only be called a Normal hard rock record. Obstensibly, it is a bit of a concept album describing the life of an insane musician who gets on meds and sees the world as a balanced individual, except lacking the ability to make music. The ironic part, at least to me, is that a bunch of songs describe this journey. The album, at least in the world of Ron Thal, is surprisingly straight forward, particularly after the outstanding Uncool a few years previous.

As Bumblefoot, Thal has always managed to exceed the trappings of most guitarists who can shred the living daylights out of their guitars. Yes, there's plenty of moments where he busts out solos that make your eyebrows go "What in the hell did he just do?", but Thal has always been a good songwriter first and foremost, as well as an outstanding singer. Normal finds him reeling in some of the genre hopping aspects of earlier recordings for a more traditional hard rock approach and concise rock songs. Some of these songs are among the best he's done: "Real" and the utterly hilarious "Rockstar for a Day". In fact, "Rockstar For a Day" is probably my favorite Bumblefoot track to date with its scathing satrical lyrics ("my contribution to humanity is being a part of it" and "all the ugly rumors are started by my publicist"). But the problem with Normal is that it somehow loses a bit of stream towards the second half of the record and the last three or four songs are average at best, but not terribly memorable. As a result, Normal does pale a bit, particularly in comparison to Uncool, which may stand as Bumblefoot's ultimate musical statement.

Most people probably are now aware of Ron Thal as he somehow got recruited into Guns N Roses as their lead guitarist a few years ago. I certainly hope the paycheck is helping him build a great studio as he's also an outstanding sound engineer (as the excellent production on Normal indicates). It does lead to wonder how many mainstream GnR fans have ever bothered to check Bumblefoot and if any of them had the epiphany that this is what generally high quality rock music should be like.

Even though Normal isn't the knockout one might have hoped for after Uncool, the album still deserves a listen, if nothing else for the hilarious "Rockstar for a Day".

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2012

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