It’s not uncommon for rock/fusion guitarists to be a bit weird and eclectic. They implement odd sounds and styles into their instrumentals for the sake of unique variety. Veteran musician Todd Grubbs is no different; if you can’t tell by its cover, his newest LP, Return of the Worm, is quite an adventure.
Born in Tampa, Florida, Grubbs has been performing for over 25 years, and he’s received international acclaim for his previous releases. His influences include Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, John Coltrane, the Beatles and Frank Zappa. While Return of the Worm does suffer a bit from the inherent redundancy of the genre, it manages to introduce enough interesting elements to keep listeners intrigued throughout. Also, there’s a transparent level of humor and joy (such as voiceovers and joking around) that adds a valuable distinctiveness.
“Five After Four In The Morning” opens the album with night sounds, trains, and guitar arpeggios. It’s an effective introduction. “I Am Not A Commentator” is a fun and funky jam with expert musicianship. Its first half is fairly mellow, but eventually it erupts into a Zappa-esque crescendo of technique. Incorporating answer machine messages and an impressive range of dynamics, “The Message” is equal parts Rush, 70s hard rock, and specialized absurdity.
Strings and even odder time signatures are utilized on “6/9/03.” Featuring biting riffs interspersed with equally awesome solos and a wide array of instruments, it carries the same brilliant rhythmical repetition as King Crimson and The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra. “Frogs” allows its music to complement a humorous and illogical Redneck story about frogs (kind of like Primus), and it’s easily one of the most entertaining tracks. The eerie ending is especially affective and memorable.
Besides the aforementioned redundancy that’s arguably unavoidable with this kind of music, the track “You Can Do It” is a bit of an odd choice. Just like the rest of Return of the Worm, it’s fantastic musically; however, listeners are also subjected to hearing a woman sulk intensely for almost the entire duration. Honestly, that doesn’t equate to a very enjoyable piece.
Return of the Worm is one of the more interesting, varied, and fun guitar-focused instrumental albums I’ve ever heard. Grubbs proves to be a masterful player while also showcasing a sense of humor and an appreciation for the joys of collaboration. It may sound formulaic as a whole, but each track excels at its own purpose. In essence, it feels as if Grubbs is more concerned with providing a good time for his audience than he is with virtuosity and ego, and that’s a rarity among his kind.