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Modest Midget - Crysis CD (album) cover


Modest Midget


Crossover Prog

4.02 | 68 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Quick Review Summary: A crisis is rarely enjoyable. Modest Midget's new album, however, is the rare exception to that rule, It is a "crysis" you will enjoy repeating time and again in the weeks and months that lie ahead!

Full Review: Much of the music on Modest Midget's new album "Crysis" was composed during an apex of global anxiety surrounding the impending 'end' of the much publicized Mayan calendar. As it would turn out, rather than heralding the end of planet earth, the Mayan calendar's 2012 expiration date ended up more closely resembling the much ballyhooed 'Y2k bug', a lot of hand-wringing and frantic build-up to... well, nothing much really. In retrospect, it appears those time conscious Mayans were busy warrior types who probably figured that the year 2012 was so very far off into the unknown future that they could afford to wait and see whether someone might discover an easier way to update their calendar before completing the required update. Or perhaps they KNEW we would all have electronic devices tracking a different calendar by 2012 anyway, so it would have been really pointless for them to have pushed the date out any further! All joking aside, here we are still on planet earth in the year 2014, thankfully enjoying the opportunity to hear a sophomore album from the inventive, catchy, quirky, diversely progressive rock band Modest Midget.

The (Grand Gate) opening track is a short atmospheric piece to set the stage, building anticipation for the album which only really gets started in earnest on track #2 "A Centurion's Itchy Belly", an excellent instrumental which in turn sets the tone musically for the entire album to follow. More than a few moments of this track call to mind Gentle Giant's "Spooky Boogie", although - truth be told - its stylistic reach is broader than that, freely incorporating folksy middle eastern elements along with those of western prog and rock. There is even a "must hear" accordion solo played in a style usually reserved for Hammond B3. Now THAT, my friends, is something you don't hear every day even from a creative prog band!!!

It is followed up by "Rocky Valleys of Dawn', an infectiously catchy up-tempo vocal rock tune worthy of airplay on alternative, progressive and new rock stations everywhere. If you program a rock station, I dare you to give this song a single week of rotation. Watch as the feedback and requests start to flow in! (Your listeners will thank you!)

Just when you think you are getting this formidable and mighty (yet ever so Modest) Midget band figured out, they change the pace with the blissful ballad 'Praise the Day', a song boasting a vocal melody grounded enough to not lose casual listeners yet one also not without more than a few unexpected twists and turns along the way (a compositional accomplishment that is by its very nature much harder than one might think). It's arrangement effectively builds lush layers before leading up to a cleverly sudden ending.

Lyrically, "Rocky Valleys of Dawn" and "Praise the Day" are a couplet of sorts. The former speaks of learning to make a life, even of learning to embrace the inevitable conflicts, challenges and suffering that will accompany the more enjoyable events we will experience along the way. The latter hints that to whatever extent we learn to truly live a day, we must also learn to accept the ending of that day. Looking at the even bigger picture, this entire album posits that what is true for a day, could also in some ways be said for an entire lifetime.

Restless rockers can rest assured that Lonnie Ziblat - the sneaky musical guide that he is - hasn't brought us to this self reflective, relaxed and peaceful point in the album for no good reason. Indeed, he deftly capitalizes on this as an opportunity to draw a sharp line of aural juxtaposition. Following the mellower tones of "Praise the Day", the opening distorted guitar chords of "Now That We're Here" ring all the more 'extra-crunchy'. The bass guitar thunders and the drums crash all the more mightily. Then, lest matters grow too comfortably familiar, a quirky interjection of joyous tomfoolery reminiscent of some of the best work of the classic Swedish prog band Samla Mammas Manna enters the fray. "Now That We're Here" is yet another one of those classic Modest Midget tracks which pack as much high quality musical content into three minutes and forty-two seconds as most classic prog bands manage to muster during an entire LP side-long "epic".

Next, the Maarten Bakker composition "Periscope Down" slows things down long enough to prove that popular vocal jazz can retain a sense of complexity, achieving 'smoothness' through sophisticated arrangement rather than devolved harmony.

Things get really fun (if a bit frivolous) on a cover of the classic rock n' roll tune "Pretty Woman" (originally performed by Roy Orbison and popularized again a couple of decades later by Van Halen). This particular rendition sounds at times as though Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo) could have assisted with the arrangement! There are also moments where Lonny Ziblat's vocal pays genuine homage to the multi-octave ranged tenor of the great Roy Orbison himself.

The happy and care-free mood of 'Pretty Woman' segues nicely into the playfully inventive instrumental named "Flight of the Cockroach". Again, Ziblat tips his hat to none other than the great classic prog band from which his band's namesake most certainly was derived by packing more joyous syncopated content into 2:39 than most bands muster during songs triple or quadruple the length.

Modest Midget then settles in for a trio of tunes which surround the pains, disappointments and let downs that come our way whenever we realize we have expected a little bit too much from others around us (and truth be told sometimes even of ourselves). Yes, life has its joyous moments of flying high (albeit not always with Cockroaches but let's not get bogged down in playful details). A fully lived life also has more than what we might consider to be its 'fair share' of crises (or perhaps of 'cryses'). Fortunately, as the album liner notes, although we usually consider a crisis to be a problem, it can actually provide us an opportune moment for self reflection resulting in positive change, a sentiment that may at first be difficult to accept, yet in the end, will ring peacefully true in the hearts of those brave enough to have embraced it.

The album ends much as it began with the song "Birth". Just as we entered the album "Crysis" through a "Grand Gate Opening", we too entered this world through a grand gate opening. Our arrival was greeted not only by a clapping of familial hands but also by the sharp clap of a doctor's hand upon our backside. We march through pain and joy, experiencing highs and lows on our way to discovering both loneliness and love. Indeed, each and every one of these things go into the making of a full life. The lyric of "Birth" even goes as far as to speak of leaving this world behind and walking the grand opening gate yet again, and although I'm not at all a proponent of the tenets of reincarnation, I can certainly appreciate the idea of leaving this life to move on to a next one. From my perspective, as assuredly as this today leads to a tomorrow, this life too leads to an eternity. Of course, one need not believe one way or another in religious matters in order to enjoy the wonderful music of Modest Midget's "Crysis".

Although I've lived long enough to have have survived, learned from and perhaps even to have grown from a few crisis experiences, I'm hard pressed to think of very many instances in which I have actually enjoyed a crisis... This album, however, is one of those rare instances. Buy Modest Midget's latest album. It is the rare "Crysis" you too will enjoy repeating time and again in the weeks and months that lie ahead.

The CD package even includes a 24 page booklet designed by artist Netaly Reshef featuring thoughts, lyrics and breathtaking photographs. It serves as a wonderful song-by-song visual companion to enhance your overall experience of this excellent concept album.

progpositivity | 5/5 |


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