The only noticeable difference is that Miller has forsaken almost entirely the soft melodic material that turned up in several places… Read More
on the first two albums in favor of the big beat. Virtually the whole album is uptempo and very loud. The addition of two sidemen (co-producer Glyn Johns and Ben Sidran) gives the band the same instrumentation it has had in the past.
On stage, the Miller band is developing into a power trio a la Jimi Hendrix and the late Cream. The big beat of Brave New World reflects this, but the instrumentation tends to reject it. This is most noticeable on cuts like "Celebration Song," on which everyone seems to get in the way of everyone else. I'm tempted to describe this as a transition album, but it clearly isn't as the band hasn't decided whether it wants to be the power trio or the quintet of Children of the Future and Sailor.
The best cuts on the album are "Kow Kow," the title cut, and "Space Cowboy."
"Kow Kow" is near flawless. It opens with just a guitar, then the rest of the band comes in one by one and the song builds for about two minutes to a crescendo. That is suddenly cut off by a piano soliloquy with the organ whining in the background as the song fades out. Over the music, Miller sings a story about a smooth operator who had a pet alligator which he kept in a chrome elevator. Beautiful!
In their own bizarre way, "Space Cowboy" and "Brave New World" complement each other nicely. Both speak of a rebirth. Both provide a vehicle for the Miller band to show off its mastery of electronics (and they use them as well as anyone in rock, the Beatles and Hendrix not excepted), and both play Miller's guitar off against a steady rhythm section. "Space Cowboy" is especially nice: Davis pounding out a strong beat, Turner laying down a rugged fuzz bass line, and Miller bending off notes like he was born with a guitar in his hands. One of the high points of the album is the drumming of Davis, especially on his own "Can't You Hear Your Daddy's Heartbeat," a hard-driving ode to lust.
The main problem here comes in trying to reconcile the big beat of the trio with the quintet of yesteryear, which this album seeks to maintain through the use of sidemen. When this problem is solved, look for great things from the Steve Miller Band. In the meantime, though, Brave New World will do just fine. (RS 38)