Guitarist John Lowery (aka John 5) is something of a man about town in music circles. His first encounter with a fret board was in 1978, at the tender age of seven. After school Lowery moved to Los Angeles, falling in and out of various bands until 1996, when he was picked to be kd lang‘s touring guitarist.
Two years later he found himself thrust into the spotlight of controversy as lead guitarist with Marilyn Manson for the Mechanical Animals tour. Contributing to two records, including credits for 13 of the 15 songs on last year’s Golden Age of Grotesque, by March this year Lowery and Manson had parted company. On his final tour with Manson, the guitarist lost two family members and suffered panic and anxiety attacks.
Since then Lowery has kept himself busy, forming the band Loser and working with a host of artists including Lisa Marie Presley and Avril Lavigne. But it was a recent jam with 88-year-old guitar legend Les Paul that turned things for the better. Paul egged Lowery on to make an instrumental album, which the starstruck guitarist admitted was reason enough to do it.
And so here we have it, the end product of Lowery’s new lease of life. With the title drawing from the vertigo he experienced during his panic attack period, it’s good to hear Lowery back on song with the industrial crunch of opener of Needles CA.
But as with all axe masturbation soir�es, the thin line between songs and over-indulgence is easy to cross. Or to be blunt, more apparent, especially with no vocals. Van Halen tapping freaks will get off on this stuff, as will wammy bar fans.
That said, Vertigo does have its moments. Pulling Strings is an ace blend of wah, funky effects and marauding riffs. Incredibly there’s bluegrass and country on here too. Sugar Foot Rag sounds like a pi**take in the context of the album, but hear it in a bar and you’d thing you were in Mississippi. Similarly, the tender industrial blues of Goodnight shows remarkable craftsmanship.
Dead Man’s Dream is a parting shot at Manson, with a pimped up new age take on T-Rex. It screams for Brian Warner’s words but beneath its layers you can almost hear Lowery giggling at his former employer.
Even for a man of Lowery’s talents, the album dips, feeling like an exercise in “see what I can play?!” With contemporaries such as Dave Navarro and John Frusciante delivering successful solo efforts, Vertigo is good way short of those standards. The odd-even flow of metal and country is awkward and too much of an oxymoron for even the most willing listener.
For 15 quid I’d only recommend this to guitar enthusiasts. Even then don’t expect anything in the region of Page, Hendrix or Richards. Then again a wise man once said, “The times, they are a changin’…”