flat and boring, like the state

Freaks of Nature (? ?)

By Mark Clark

If a band records an album but no one plays it, is it really music? Such are the metaphysical issues raised by Freaks of Nature, which reaches 'record stores like a tree falling in the forest.

Freaks is the latest release from Kansas. (Yes, Kansas. No, they're not dead.) It's exactly what you would expect from an aging, all-but-forgotten band whose previous work ranged from the mediocre (Leftoverture) to the lamentable (virtually everything else). In other words, Freaks is remarkably unremarkable.

Kansas is still trying to sell audiences on its old-hat "art rock" schtick, combining electric guitars and violins. This approach was pompous back in the '70s, when the group had at least a handful of decent tunes in them. On Freaks, without a memorable vocal harmony, guitar riff or lyrical turn to be found among these nine hapless tracks, the strings and other trappings sound pointless, asinine. Violinist David Ragsdale could play while singer Steve Walsh belched and farted, but that wouldn't make what they were doing Art. Then again, it might be more entertaining than this album.

Confession: After rereading this review, I'm beginning to wonder if I've gone a little too hard on these guys. It could be worse, after all. At least they're not Styx.

Carry on, my wayward sons.