Adrian Belew, “Idiom” from Flux (2015): One Track Mind

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Across a career that’s seen Adrian Belew work with a succession of huge bands while putting out some deeply underrated solo work, he has shown an eye for the comedically off-beat — maybe most notably on his biggest MTV-era hit. That sense of humor is often forgotten, however, amid a torrent of musical ingenuity and Belew’s smart way with a lyric.

“Idiom,” Adrian Belew’s latest creation for his completely addictive Flux app, works as a fizzy reminder.

We find Belew, as the song begins, reeling off a string of worn-smooth sayings. In this context, though, they begin to take on new meanings. You hear them in a different way, for what they mean and what they could mean. “Idioms fascinate me, because they are usually bizarre,” Adrian Belew said recently. “There are thousands of idioms in the English language. This song is made entirely of idioms.”

So, yes, in a sense you’ve heard them all, but never in quite this way. When Adrian Belew begins fitting these idioms together, a quirky kind of storyline emerges, as does the beginnings of a smile. By the time he gets the the appropriately inventive instrumental section — one that layers one musical surprise after another — the full breadth of his creative genius is on display. And, if you’re like me, you’re completely in stitches.

“Idiom” boasts the narrative smarts of “Incompetence Indifference,” from 2006’s Side Three. The crazy-cool juxtapositions of “Bird in a Box” from 2000’s Coming Attractions. The instrumental gumption of “Dinosaur” from King Crimson’s 1995 album Thrak.

But something else, too. Adrian Belew, you’re reminded once more, is pretty funny.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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