Non Newtonian Man – “Clouds”

cloudsI guess all the good band names are officially taken. Non Newtonian Man is certainly one of the worse ones that I’ve heard other than maybe Soul Enema. It’s interesting how a bad name can impact your desire to even check out a band. This is without a doubt one of those times. I kept putting off this one and the only reason I can think of is the name. Shallow.

But maybe I sensed a problem ahead? For all of Non Newtonian Man’s musical talents (and yes the band can play), they are completely for naught as the vocals are weak. When you have a band with the talent to play complex arrangements and also can write a good hook, it just baffles me when the vocals just aren’t up to the task. The vocals aren’t entirely off tune but range is very limited and the delivery is boring at best.

I’ve had many many submissions that I’ve rejected for this very reason and as I listen to “Clouds” I’m not sure that I shouldn’t have rejected it as well. But the musicianship is there. The solo on “Beyond the Door” is a good example of that. I also love the use of organs through out the album. The riffing is nice and crunchy at times, listen to “Pawn” for example, and I really like that as well.

Sadly, Non Newtonian Man need a dynamic singer that can match their musicianship. Without that, it’s just another forgettable album that I’ll quite honestly never listen to again. That’s a shame too but as you all know, I am always honest. So if you are someone that doesn’t mind weaker vocals, perhaps “Clouds” is for you.

Note: there are no full length tracks available to preview other than on Spotify (which I do not use). There are very short clips on YouTube.

Rating: 5/10

Tracklist:
1. Overwhelming (8:11)
2. Beyond The Door (4:44)
3. Pawn (9:19)
4. In Search Of Courage (1:37)
5. Shelter (5:37)
6. Olandese Volante (14:52)
7. From Here (6:10)
8. Biomechanical (16:21)
9. Queen (3:58)

Website: www.nonnewtonianman.com

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The Pretty Things – “The Same Sun”

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When the ProgBoss offered me this Pretty Things release for review I thought it might be a reissue.

Well, it is, kinda. I got to preview, digitally, what is going to be released as a 7 inch vinyl single.

Two of the songs on this single come from their 2015 album The Sweet Pretty Things Are In Bed Now, Of Course. The other two are live tracks from their psychedelic 60s period.

The current lineup of the band includes two guys who have been there since the beginning, Phil May (the singer) and Dick Taylor (the guitarist). And, according to their Facebook page, they are on tour right now.

The new tracks fit right in with the old ones. The spirit of the 60s never left. It just got a little older and wiser.

The vocals on the newer songs are strong with nice harmonies. The guitar chimes in that psychedelic style. The live tracks have a good energy to them, which shines through the production quality.

There are a few younger bands out there trying to capture that classic psychedelic sound. That’s nice. These guys are the real thing.

If you are a vinyl lover like me, this single would a nice addition to your collection. It’s a good introduction to a classic band.

I’m off to check out The Sweet Pretty Things Are In Bed Now, Of Course directly.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. The Same Sun
2. Renaissance Fair
3. She Says Good Morning
4. Alexander

Band Members:
Phil May – lead vocals, maracas, harmonica
Dick Taylor – lead guitar, occasional vocals
Frank Holland – guitar, vocals, harmonica
Jack Greenwood – drums
George Woosey – bass, vocals

Release date: 2 January 2018

Label Fruits de Mer

Website: www.theprettythings.com

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When Prog Loses its Rock

I’ve been struggling more than usual lately when trying to get into a lot of the music that has been submitted for review to this site. I was beginning to think that either my taste is getting more and more specific or that maybe I am tired of prog. I just was getting more and more bored with things that I was listening to. That does not mean everything however.

So I started to think about what the difference was between the music that I wanted to listen to and/or review versus the music that I find boring as fuck. It turns out it rather easy to explain. The music that bores me doesn’t ROCK. No that does not mean it has to be metal. Last I checked bands like Yes and King Crimson rock as hard as any prog metal band. So what’s the issue?

Somewhere along the line, prog was able to detach itself from rock. It’s called progressive rock when bands like Yes play it. But then in the early 80s bands emulated old Genesis but while some still rocked (IQ, Marillion, Pallas), others watered prog rock down to become easier to listen to. Neo prog was born and while I do like some neo prog (the bands mentioned), much of it does not rock. It’s bland and calculated.

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IQ: They keep the ROCK in prog rock!

Neo prog is an excuse to not rock out. It’s prog for people who like to claim they like prog but don’t want to actually be challenged by the music they listen to. Once that happens, you open the door for bands that are based more in classical than rock. I know prog owes a HUGE debt to classical music BUT it’s still fucking rock music. People love bands like Beatrix Players and Iamthemorning but for me, they are so damn boring and safe. It’s not far from elevator music.

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Beatrix Players: Elevator music for your snobby side

If your first reaction is “oh that’s nice,” fuck all of that! Prog is supposed to challenge you and at the same time get you moving. If it doesn’t, I have no time for it. And there is A LOT of that bland shit out there. There are entire internet radio shows that claim to be prog rock shows and just shit out hours of dull, pretentious neo-prog. No risks, no actual adventure. “Oh but it’s a concept album with dialogue!” Yeah and the music is as interesting as the shitty concept you’ve dressed it up in.

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Gandalf’s Fist’s “The Clockwork Fable”: More dialogue, less rock.

This epiphany has felt good. It turns out that I still love the same music I always have. I’ve been able to quantify the reasons that I hate certain types of music. If you are into the music that I’ve taken a giant shit on, that’s totally fine. There are a ton of sites dedicated to all of that. This planet spins in a different direction than those. You might not agree with what I love but if you do, welcome to the Progressive Music Planet.

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Diablo Swing Orchestra – “Pacifisticuffs”

DSOThe line between clever and cheesy is a narrow one. There are bands like Therion who (for whatever reason) walk that line every single release and never seem to fuck up. I love Therion which might surprise some. Then there’s Diablo Swing Orchestra, who I’ve always felt that I should love. They are weird and very unique. So I keep trying to get into them.

Their latest album “Pacifisticuffs” represents another attempt for me to get into them. Let me start by saying if you love DSO, you will love “Pacifisticuffs.” It’s the same over the top, odd ball stuff that they have done. There is NO questioning how talented this band is musically. They are excellent and the arrangements are very tight. So why do I find they always over step the line into being cheesy?

The vocals. First off, the vocalists are good singers so it’s not that they aren’t able to hit the notes that need hitting. The problem is that it comes off as very “Broadway” and it sounds affected rather than organic. It’s all part of the show. And I know many people love that sort of thing. So this review is tricky because “Pacifisticuffs” has confirmed to me that I will never be into DSO. BUT there’s no denying the talent and quality on this album.

The album starts with a quick, thrashy blast of “Knucklehugs” which is really good. “The Age of Vulture Culture” is also a solid song with strings and I think a tuba?? “Superhero Jagganath” is so weird musically (I mean that in a good way) but again the vocals are a tad too goofy sounding. “Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker” is the start of the downswing for me. Vocals are too cutesy for my taste. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change as the album progresses.

I think “Jigsaw Hustle” was the breaking point for me. DSO goes disco?? Yeah they do. “Interruption” is a good example of my issues with DSO. The music is varied and very cool. The vocals ooze bad Broadway. Vocalist Kristin Evegård reminds me A LOT of Tori Amos on this track. Having never liked Tori Amos’ voice or delivery, that poses a problem.

The pluses are that the arrangements are big and even epic, the melodies are very strong and the band are still one of the most unique bands on the planet. It’s hard to compare them to anyone really. I suppose they sound like a band that Mike Patton should be in. Maybe that would actually help me get into them! If you like metal mixed with old school jazz with a huge helping of big band music, “Pacifisticuffs” is an album for you. It’s sure to please DSO’s long time fans and who knows maybe even convert some new ones. They aren’t for everyone of course. It’s tough to rate this album but…

Rating: 7/10

Tracklist:

1. Knucklehugs (Arm Yourself With Love)
2. The Age Of Vulture Culture
0. Superhero Jagganath
4. Vision Of The Purblind
5. Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker
6. Jigsaw Hustle
7. Pulse Of The Incipient
8. Ode To The Innocent
9. Interruption
10. Cul-De-Sac Semantics
11. Karma Bonfire
12. Climbing The Eyeball
13. Porch Of Perception

Label: Candlelight/Spinefarm
Release Date: 8 December 2017
Website: www.diabloswing.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/diabloswingorchestra

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Slug Comparison – “IIb”

IIbSlug Comparison is the solo project from Doug Harrison of Fen (the Canadian prog band). “IIb” is the third release from this project with “IIa” also being an EP. This two track EP is a tribute to Doug’s late friend Eric Rose. Doug is a truly gifted singer and songwriter. With “IIb,” the spotlight is very much on his vocals. The arrangements are at times stark which given the subject matter, it makes sense.

“When You Were Living Here” relates to the time he lived with his good friend. It builds slowly musically and emotionally. “Beings Far Away” is another stripped down, beautiful track. The songs remind me of The Dear Hunter a bit which is a good thing. You feel like Doug and the band are in the same room as you. And in the band are Dave and Mike Young who have worked with Devin Townsend. Canadians stick together!

The EP makes me wish there was more than just 2 tracks. It’s like getting a 7″ single I suppose. Regardless of length, the quality is extremely high. I know I say this sometimes but if I had a record label, Slug Comparison would be on that label. Doug Harrison has done it once again. I look forward to more EPs or full lengths from Slug Comparison.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

1. When You Were Living Here
2. Beings Far Away

Bandcamp: slugcomparison.bandcamp.com/album/iib

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