This is an album I’ve been waiting for since the Summer of 2008. That was the month the last full-length Bumblefoot album of original material, Abnormal, was released. That’s 7 years of patience, while the world has continued to turn. It is not as though Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal hasn’t been busy in that time. He has released a handful of digital singles, released Chinese Democracy with rock legend Guns N’ Roses, and toured all over the world more than few times with the same. But to me, there’s always been something special about a Bumblefoot solo album. And now, with the release of Little Brother Is Watching, my patience has been rewarded with a brilliant 11-course meal of sonic satisfaction.
What can one expect from a Bumblefoot album? Breathtaking musical backdrops, for one, which is always a wonderful place to start. With the exception of long-time drummer Dennis Leeflang’s always solid, powerful performance, Thal steps up to fill in the rest. Be it guitars, bass, or vocals, this album is Bumblefoot. Well, I shouldn’t forget that the backup vocals for this album came from a concert Thal held, in which he allowed the audience to bless the release with their own voices and percussive stomping. But really, I swear, the rest is him! Right from the start, with the song “Clots,” you will be entranced by the uniqueness that has captured hearts for over 20 years. This is a man that learned to play Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” backwards, after all, and dabbles in Chopin, all while playing classic rock in one of the biggest bands the world has ever known. And just like “Clots,” you might require surgery if you wish you remove these infectious melodies and otherworldly choruses. Not that you’d want to, mind you.
From my descriptions, you might imagine that this album contains some rather peculiar sounds, and you wouldn’t be wrong. One listen to the song “Cuterebra” might make the unsuspecting listener raise an eyebrow (or two, if they aren’t connected). It’s almost circus-esque opening and haunting lyrics bring an air of uneasiness and quickly snowballs as the track picks up steam. Bumblefoot’s music has always possessed enough atypical attributes as to make it appealing to those who couldn’t settle for the status quo of rock music, but at the same time never distanced itself so far from the features that draw so many people into classic songs. The album features tracks such as “Livin’ The Dream,” which shines light on the true life of a touring musician; “Women Rule The World,” with its guitar-tapped chorus and pop punk riffs; and the title track, a swinging Orwellian rock anthem full of foot stomps and fist raising action. Each of these are steeped in so much catchiness that I can just envision the 90s kids hitting rewind on their Walkmans to get another taste. For those younger listeners, I’m referring to a time that occurred sometime after the dinosaurs, but before songs could be restarted at the touch of a button. You had to WAIT for that self-invoked encore!
I honestly don’t know why you haven’t already bought this album. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have discovered Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal thanks to Guns N’ Roses. But he did not win them over simply through his playing of other musicians’ songs, no matter how well. He won them over by his character; by his acoustic pre- and post-concert performances held in hotel lobbies, and endless autograph sessions as the tour manager was trying to drag him onto the bus to catch the next flight. And that character, that honesty, and that musical dedication is captured in every moment of the songs on this release. Little Brother Is Watching is an album I’ve been waiting on for 7 years and, whether you know it or not, you’ve been waiting on it too. Don’t wait as long as I have to experience it, or you’ll be kicking yourself years down the road when you’ve realized your mistake.