What we have here is yet another oddity out of Gibsons Guitar of the Month program. Billed as the Reverse Explorer, I think a more accurate description would be an Upside-down Explorer. The instrument contains a number of unique design elements so lets take a closer look to see if they got it all backwards, or have Gibson created another guitar that is decades ahead of its time? Fit and Finish I was fortunate enough to have acquired instrument # 002. This is about as early in the release of 1000 instruments as it gets, although Id love to hear from anyone that has instrument # 001. This instrument has a flawless glossy finish, perfectly shaped neck (a hybrid 50s/60s profile common to V and Explorers) and fret ends that feel smooth and well dressed. The Antique walnut brown stain screams class, and looks up market with the gold appointments and powder copper covers. The only quibble I had was that the bridge pickup came seated tilting too much towards the bottom of the instrument for me. The springs had compressed in a way to cause the tilt, however, a quick adjustment under the guard fixed the problem. It gave me an excuse to check out the routes and wiring, which were tidily done as well. I was most excited to see the reverse Moderne headstock in use here, as outside of the small run of Moderne Reissues done in the early 80s this is the only other occasions that I can think of where Gibson has recalled the essence of this near mythical lost guitar design. The headstock also comes with a rare art-deco Gibson logo, supposedly a design that Ted McCarty was toying with back in the late 50s. I find that it is reminiscent of the spaghetti style logo Fender had adopted around this era, which lend credence to this being the style of the times. The Gibson logo has changed over the years, but it is intriguing to see such a different take on it in use on a production instrument. As a huge fan of the original modernistic series instruments, to see a new plan-form that includes, yet skews, elements of both Explorers and Modernes was something that appealed to me when I first saw a picture of one from this years NAMM show. I remember thinking: Wow, thats ugly .can I order one? It is certainly a polarizing design, not unlike its cousins, the Reverse V and before that, the Flying V, Explorer and Moderne, that seems to make people fall into Love it/Hate it factions. This would appear to be a mandatory trait inherent in its modernistic pedigree. Some people just wont get it. Go ahead and play your Telecasters and Les Pauls, leave me to my fun. Hardware A set of gold hardware is joined by restrained use of Carbon Fibre touches in the pick guard, truss rod cover, and pair of inlays at 5th and 12th position. Close inspection of the inlays shows that there was some filler required in each of the 4 corners where the router created the space in inlay a patch of carbon fibre which appear to then have been sealed in by an epoxy resin style coating, which is then finished to be flush with the fret board. Outside of the corners, it looks quite good, and it feels solid and flat under finger. The use of carbon-fiber appointments does lend a rather modern touch to an otherwise retro design. The instrument comes with a Classic 57 for the neck, set in a pick up ring and a Classic 57 Plus in the bridge, which is, interestingly enough, not set in a ring, but in the lightning bolt shaped pick guard. It is odd to see the mix of ring/non-ring setup on a single guitar. I cant think of another design that does this, but I guess this is just another in a long list of unique attributes on this instrument. Both pick ups come with covers that use powdered copper coving without exposing any coil screws. The colouring plays off the deep brown of the body, bridging the gap to the gleaming gold appointments, but I think perhaps standard gold covers would also have looked good here, possibly better. The provided case is a nice step up over the standard black reptile skinned cases with white interior that my recent Gibsons have been coming with. This case comes with a faux-leather exterior, which comes emblazoned with Guitar of the Month 2008 on it as well as the Gibson Logo. The handle is quite different from the other recent cases, and is significantly more comfortable while carrying, and feels reassuringly solid. The case interior is still white, but feels more upmarket in texture over the standard cases, and comes with a white silky blanket also adorned with Guitar of the Month 2008, although, unlike my 90s Gibson cases that came with cover blankets (which I always thought was a nice touch), this blanket is not attached to the case, it simply overlays the guitar, or can be folded up and stowed in the ample case pocket, should you choose. Finally, the instrument comes with Steinberger gearless tuners. These are quite interesting and function in a way that I was not expecting. Instead of normal tuning keys and pegs, the instrument has 6 large posts with a set of locking caps on top, and tuning adjustment knobs on the back of the headstock, reminiscent of a set of Banjo tuners. Twisting these causes an internal post to raise and lower. Strings pass straight through a hole that is exposed when the posts are fully extended out, and they are then locked in place by screwing down the cap on the top of the tuning post. From there, turning the knobs on the back lower the posts into the headstock, pulling the string tighter. In action they work much like a large set of micro tuners as you would find on a locking tremolo.. They reportedly have a 40:1 ratio, which makes tuning extremely accurate and easy to use. Restringing is also quite easy. Thread the string through, lock it in, and then adjust up to tension. While you do get increased accuracy in your tuning, the trade off is, much like micro tuners, they have a limited range that they are able to control the string. If your string slips, or slackens over time, there will come a point when you will not be able to tighten the string anymore, as the post will reach the end of its movement range. Once the string is stretched out like this, you need to replace it, there is no option to unbolt a locking nut and tighten the string further on a standard tuning capstan. I think these tuners will work extremely well for people that intend to keep the guitar in a single tuning, but if you plan on swapping tunings all the time, you may find that a set of conventional tuners suit your purposes better. Sounds The instrument balances extremely well on a strap, being given an even wider stance than a normal Explorer, as the neck end strap button is at the end of the horn, instead of on the back of the neck joint, while the lower end strap button is in the normal place for an explorer. I was worried that now that that swooping lower fin was turned upside down, that a strap may pull away from the button and allow for separation, but the reality is when worn at the appropriate playing angle (a pointy guitar should really be slung about as low as it can go, non?), it holds the strap nicely, and sits in place if you let go of the neck. You can sit with it on your lap if you are sitting on a stool, or narrow chair, but this is really an instrument that is quite difficult to sit with on a broad flat surface as the lower fin pushes the neck down. You should stand when you rock anyways. Let er rip. The mahogany body and pickups on this particular instrument combine to make a particularly dark and moody sounding instrument in comparison to my other Gibsons. The Classic 57 Plus is a new pickup model for me, but I wonder if part of this moodiness is being imparted by the covers and their unique composition. The tone is smooth like butter though. While I was trying it out I stood across the room from my amp, and I realized that the way I have it set up, Ive probably been killing my bass player with high end, and this actually improves things nicely. The clean tones are rich and silky smooth with a decent amount of output without being overpowering. Obviously, winding the amp up with a decent amount of distortion also sounds great, producing full-bodied, creamy lead tones while also allowing me to slam out some great riffage. Bottom Line It is a hoot to play, being both comfortable and extremely well put together; it looks great as well, presuming your tastes allow for something distinctly non-conventional and a penchant for the unique. I now eagerly await a Reverse Moderne.