Underground Chamber is a ride deep into the mind of Buckethead

Buckethead Pike #4 album coverBuckethead’s Underground Chamber is the fourth release in his “Pikes” series, and something like his 33rd studio release overall. Underground Chamber is too good to be dismissed, but nowhere near the top of the pile in the expansive Buckethead discography.

Sliced into 10 tracks for digital download, or a single continuous track for CD, the album is tour of some of Buckethead’s favorite tropes. There are metal-ish bits, some funk, and enough tempo changes to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Let’s go underground with Buckethead

Being Buckethead, though, he can’t resist a few wonky bits that keep the album from mainstream accessibility. Well, that and the fact he wears a creepy mask and a bucket on his head.

Buckethead playing live
Buckethead playing live

Sometimes Buckethead’s plonky bits resolve into beautiful riffs and melodies. There’s no question that Buckethead is a rare talent who can coax just about anything out of a guitar that he wants. The jagged edges serve to add texture to what could otherwise be a bland exhibition of proficiency.

Buckethead’s rough edges

But the Pikes are unrefined and sometimes feel unfinished. It’s like looking through a great artist’s sketchbooks at thumbnails that never quite made the canvas. The ideas are there, the talent is there, but after toying with the subject for a bit the page is turned and we don’t see the masterpiece it might have become if it was fully worked.

Like a sketchbook, I like taking out the Pikes from time to time and get a lot of enjoyment out of them. But they’re not the first thing I reach for when I’m looking for music, much of the time.

What could be

It’d be interesting to see what a producer could work out of Underground Chamber with the current album as a starting point. I’d really love to see what Buckethead’s discography would sound like if he had a producer and/or collaborator who could get him to focus on the best bits and discard some of the noodling.

The trade-off is that Buckethead fans have an almost unfiltered access to his work, fully developed and otherwise. Almost every Buckethead album I’ve listened to has high points that make it worth the time to listen from start to finish.

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