Maybe Just a Static Electricity Nova
Joe Satriani’s 2013 studio album was titled Unstoppable Momentum. Momentum, as you recall from high school physics, promises us an object in motion prefers to stay in motion. That definition doesn’t describe the velocity or direction; just the tendency. Hard rock guitar pioneer and professor Satriani shows, at the age of 59, he has no intention of stopping, nor does he see the need to change course. His latest, Shockwave Supernova, traverses a path Satriani has been along for years — a path he blazed himself for many others to follow, but it’s a level one indeed.
Shockwave Supernova begins with the title track, offering a series of triplets that sound too much like “Instanbul, Not Constantinople” followed by verse that harkens back to classic hard rock. On this song, and on the next few, Satriani does an excellent job replacing vocals with the guitar riff. You can be forgiven for thinking you actually heard the words “shockwave supernova” in the refrains.
On other songs, the style is given away in the title, like the bluesy and smooth “San Francisco Blue” and the Southern-rock-tinged “Scarborough Stomp.” A couple of songs are less obviously named, but the listener can guess “In My Pocket” would have a jingly-jangly feel and “A Phase I’m Going Through” would highlight the implied guitar effect. If you’re looking for tender moments, you might assume the songs “All of My Life” and “Butterfly and Zebra” would provide them, and you’d be right. The former is laid back with a tight groove, but not too wild; and the latter is percussion-free and moody.
No one can ever dispute Satriani’s talent; the effortlessness and virtuosity comes across on every track. But there’s a lack of dynamics that implies a dismissal of artistry, as though even in the realm of instrumental rock, there’s not much left to say. Shockwave Supernova is a fine exhibition of talent, but won’t hit anyone where they live.