After the excellent “Let your garden sleep in” (2021), the Italian duo Sterbus, formed by Emanuele Sterbini and Dominique D’avanzo (old acquaintances in these parts), released a collection of instrumental tracks entitled “Solar Barbecue”.

The album was originally conceived to be released as a bonus disc to the limited edition of “Let your garden sleep in”, but the initial project was then skipped due to logistical issues.
The idea responded to a very precise logic: showing all the artistic sides of the multifaceted duo and “counterbalancing” the more markedly pop dimension of the main work, with the more eccentric and unconventional instrumental dimension of the added disc.
The combination would certainly have worked, but there would have been a risk that “Solar Barbecue” would have passed under the radar as an appendix or a pure divertissement; the classic one-listening bonus, which some might even have classified as compensation for the old fans for the excessive melodic linearity of the album.

But now we can say it loud and clear: “Solar Barbecue” absolutely deserves a space of its own. Far from being a mere extravagance or a fan service for the devotees of the duo’s more extravagant side, the record rather reveals the level of “creative incontinence” Emanuele Sterbini suffers from: he’s an omnivorous listener and musician, incapable of channelling his writing within a single track, so much so that it is not surprising and indeed almost physiological that after the pop delights of “Let your garden sleep in”, a work follows that is placed in the (I beg you pardon for the 4 letter word…) prog sphere . Working titles like “Sheila is a Prog-Rocker” or “Silly Prog songs” already say it all… It was not for nothing that he wasn’t able to hold back the lively instrumental interlude of “Stalking Heads” on the previous album…

Sterbus’s music is a multifaceted and polymorphic creature that moves, often even within the same track, within a very wide system of references, ranging roughly from Zappa to Guided by Voices, passing through practically everything in between, with Tim Smith of Cardiacs as patron saint watching over it from above. In short, an explosive mixture with a high risk of involuntary deflagration, but it works.
It works because the author never forgets that he is first and foremost a music lover, someone who has poured an authentic and at times obsessive-maniacal passion into listening, but who has also learnt to let all his musical heritage spill out of his writing, without letting it overwhelm him. The result is music in which the inspirations often manifest themselves in an evident way without, however, falling into calligraphic citationism.

Let’s take, for example, “The Great Wallop Dollop”, the track that opens the dances of “Solar Barbecue (after the intro of “Billa”, a fragment of ‘cardiac’ melody with a medieval suit). In little more than a minute, there is a schizophrenic succession of Porcupine Tree-like riffs, airy organ flourishes, sudden prog-metal style breaks and a hyperkinetic electric guitar solo in full “shredder” style (courtesy of Edoardo Taddei) which, before derailing towards metal or the most extreme self-indulgence, are sabotaged and “played down” by interludes that ironically interrupt the dynamics: first an acoustic blues section and, after the solo, a voice (Paolo Sala’s one) enigmatically announcing, “ancora non si vede un autobus all’orizzonte degli eventi” (still no bus on the event horizon). This demonstrates that the music of “Solar Barbecue” is not the child of most serious prog’s exhibitionism, but rather of the desire to amaze and amuse, in the noblest sense of the term from a musical point of view, that is to say, the Zappa sense.
And so the subversion of the hyper-technical tapping solo (which we are sure Sterbini, with a sardonic “Uncle Frank-like” smile, has maliciously and provocatively inserted), from a serious exercise in extreme virtuosity to an instrument of compositional irony, reveals author’s intentions better than anything else.

Sterbus - The Great Wallop Dollop

At the same time, the compositional whirlwind of the tracks makes us forget any musical ancestry (e.g. that of Porcupine Tree, already mentioned, which is also found in the rest of the work) because the final result simply sounds “Sterbusian”. A proposal that, according to the author himself, follows Italian comedians Lillo and Greg’s motto, “I prefer to do a thousand things BADLY than one thing WELL”.

So there is no need to go into the description of the maze of sound alleys where the other tracks lead us, precisely so as not to spoil the surprise effect, which we guarantee is very pleasant. We will simply put on record that the writer’s favourite track is “Razor Legs”.

Let us therefore spend our last words to say one very simple thing: if you love prog, listen to “Solar Barbecue”, if you don’t… listen to it anyway!