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Spock's Beard - The Kindness Of Strangers  CD (album) cover

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Spock's Beard

 

Symphonic Prog

3.77 | 352 ratings

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The Progmatist
4 stars Personally, I've always found Spock's Beard to be the one band in my collection that always seems to flirt with perfection with every release while never quite getting there. THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS is perhaps the best example of this. In fact, I'd argue that this album is the band's best work, and I'm including V and SNOW here. If there is one word to descripe KINDNESS, it's energy. You can feel it popping in between every one of Nick's perfectly placed drum beats in every song here (maybe with the exception of "June), and you can almost see the band laying this entire album down in one take in a back room of one of their houses. This is the Beard in its purest, most raw form. Its most honest work.

In fact, I'd argue that KINDNESS is the band's most conceptually coherent release to date. The album kicks off with "The Good Don't Last," a song jadedly reflecting on mankind's turning away from truth and love in search of hedonistic satisfaction before reminding us that "the radiant is still here." Despite the reminder, we're then taken into the funky, synth-heavy ditty "In the Mouth of Madness" where we are lured in by the vibes of the fun-loving ignorance hinted at in the album opener. The riff-bottomed "Cakewalk on Easy Street" shows us just how easy it can be to join the party, although we may wonder why these people seem satisfied with having bodies assembled of plastic. The acoustic "June" features some beautiful harmonies that contrast with depressing lyrics hinting toward the end of something once thought to be so carefree and long-lasting.

It's "Harm's Way" and "Flow," however, that bring this otherwise decent album into excellence. Not only are the final epics musical masterpieces, but they're made all the better by the deliberate musical and conceptual development immediately preceding them. After rocking through mostly light-hearted pieces, "Harm's Way" first sounds like it will continue the vibe before breaking into a mellotron soundscape pierced by some of Neal's most passionate vocals of his long career. The careful listener will also notice a sudden change in the lyrical direction. She'll notice that the point of view switches to someone who hasn't fallen for the appealing arguments of those who "try to hide from the cold" while "just waiting around to die." Our awakening narrator explains that she " can't look the other way. I won't stay out of harm's way" before the song explodes into a euphoric party of synthesizers and a driving bass line. Perhaps reminded that the radiant is indeed still here, she is "touched by the wind as the movement returns."

Then comes "Flow," very possibly Spock's Beard's best composition to date. As soon as the grand piano enters we know this is going to be special. Neal delivers a vocal performance here that needs to be heard to be felt. We recognize with the lyrics "True Believer: you are ever, forever; The Great Deceiver will never swallow your soul" that we are confronted with a choice. Alan's piercing guitar work seems to battle with the floating organ and mellotron in the background as we consider where we'll stand. The narrator offers that the "True Believer has burst the ocean wide" and that "we're gone forever, headlong together." After jamming through a fun, funky section, the song glides into a piano-laden climax with Neal repeating the beautifully simple "Go forth into the source" before Alan pierces through the textures into a mellotron-supported guitar solo remaining loyal to the song's main motif while still deviating enough from the path to show us the freedom, creativity, and individuality that come from doing what you know is right.

The Progmatist | 4/5 |

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