I’ll admit it, I love Joe Satriani. In all seriousness, he was the driving force that pushed me to play guitar as an awkward Midwestern teenager. I’d been playing for two years prior to hearing Joe, but once I heard Surfing With The Alien when I was 14 years old I felt like I’d been rechristened with the task of becoming one hell of a guitar slinger. You see, Satriani wasn’t like those other guys. The dudes in spandex and White Rain-hardened hair were out to play as fast as they could, melody be damned. It was all about speed, not nuance. Joe could do both, and wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He threw in sci fi, film, and literary elements in his music as well. Kurt Vonnegut, The Silver Surfer, and Blade Runner were all inspirations for his music. Joe Satriani was a beacon for the nerds and geeks, whether they(or he) realized it or not.
Over the years, he’s put out a steady stream of albums. Some better than others, but always a solid group of tunes. Shockwave Supernova is his newest guitar opus and Joe has found a really comfortable spot musically on this one. He’s left the singing at the door and is concentrating on making the best guitar instrumentals he can. At 59 years old, he can still outplay anybody out there and can still create earworm melodies that won’t leave your head for days. Recorded with longtime producing partner John Cuniberti, Satriani headed into Skywalker Studios and made one of his best sounding records in ten years.
Joe has a style all his own. His songs aren’t dummy tracks that he can fly across the fretboard over for five minutes. He creates mood and feel before laying the mind-melting solos down first, and opening track “Shockwave Supernova” does just that. The song sounds like some massive sci-fi epic. You can almost see the chromed-out space craft traveling at light speed across the universe as this track blows into your earholes. There’s some great slide playing in this one, as well as some patented Middle-Eastern flair in the solo. “Lost In A Memory” harkens back to Flying In A Blue Dream territory. It’s spacious, moody, and really accentuates Joe’s knack for creating an emotional pocket we can get lost in. “Crazy Joey” is a fun as hell kind of song. Some serious face-melting picking technique in there as well that will send guys like me down to the basement and practice for hours(or until we’re told to come upstairs.) “On Peregrine Wings” is a monster rock tune with some seriously meaty riffs.
There’s also some great laid back moments, such as the blues shuffle of “San Francisco Blue” and “Scarborough Stomp”. Both pay tribute to the Bay area that Satriani has called home since he was 20 years old. Joe can also create beautiful pieces of music, much like a classical composer creates sonatas and airy chamber music. “Butterfly and Zebra” is a short-but-sweet piece that reminds one of something like Surfing’s “Midnight”. “Stars Race Across The Sky” has a melancholy vibe with some great piano to accompany Joe’s nuanced guitar lines.
Shockwave Supernova is a solid musical outing for ‘ol Satch. I don’t think anything Joe puts out now will ever recapture that magic of hearing Surfing With The Alien for the first time when I was 14. And really, that’s pretty unfair of a longtime fan to expect. Though, something you can expect and count on from Joe Satriani is a solid group of tunes each time out. Shockwave Supernova is just that, and easily his best album in ten years.