Simplest Warrior – Aaron Katz
Often while reading, your mind wanders. You are reading about the Watts
riots: brutality, frustration, burning buildings, fire, camping, state
parks, festivals, that wookie in the patchwork, the drive up to the show,
that song at sunset… and you realize that the riot is still transpiring
under your scanning eyes which have evidently read the rest of the page
while you were dancing away in daydreams. Sometimes, your brain is to
blame, and sometimes it is the dry, drab text on the page.
Simplest Warrior suffers the fate of the latter. It sets the mind
wandering as it rolls along in the background. It is never brash, never
jarring, never grating, and, sadly, never surprising. Katz still has the
ear for melody that made Percy Hill's Color In Bloom so listenable,
as the opener and first single, "Faith (truth behind the styrofoam)"
but the musical bed his solo debut rests on is often so bland that the taste
is hard to describe. There is a steady drone from the keyboards that
the mixture, and the pacing is too often predictably plodding.
Musically, there are the expected textures and tones, the ones that would be
home on a Steely Dan album, but there are a number of sounds here that
would be just as comfortable on a Michael McDonald disc. The chosen voices
of the instruments are more rooted in the automaton tones of the 1980s than
the rich hues of the '70s. The guitar sounds hark back to a time better
forgotten, and even the horn lines of the album's blast of muted sunshine,
"The Now", seem closer to the Average White Band than Stevie Wonder. The
emphasis is squarely on the vocals, and the music feels like an
It is telling that the most organic and lively track is the hidden track,
the one that just didn't feel right with the album but was worth recording.
The track opens with Katz's voice and a simple acoustic guitar riff, and the
keys, when they enter after the excellent, "I'm in love with you/it sucks"
line, feel rounder and more real. Even the tambourine is a welcome guest at
the close of a disc that seems to lack any real sense of play or whimsy.
When he channels the right influences, Katz's songs come alive, but without
the proper filter, these lie lifeless on the tracks.