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The Tea Club - Grappling CD (album) cover


The Tea Club


Crossover Prog

4.03 | 203 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The album first caught my attention when a review appeared on the PA homepage. It was the cover art that captured my eye. I read the review because I wanted to know if there was any good reason to bring this album art into my life. When the PA Top 100 of 2015 was up, this album grabbed my attention again as it was near the top of the list. I sampled some of the music on YouTube but wasn't convinced. But that artwork kept coming back to grab my attention. At last I relented and ordered the darn thing.

I had never heard of the Tea Club before so I don't know how to compare the music of this, their fourth album, to their previous works. But from track one, "The Magnet", I feel I can hear some Genesis, some Marillion and maybe a bit of the more serrated edge of Van der Graaf Generator. But this music strikes me as busier. "The Magnet" begins in full swing with the drums and bass holding down the fort while guitar and keyboards roam freely. It becomes as most of the album is: rather complex music. At times I wonder if any vocal melody was considered during the writing of the music or if the vocalist just had to find his own way. Whatever the case, I like the track.

Although each of the six songs have their individual introductions and musical atmospheres ("Remember Where You Where" begins quite softly; "Dr. Abraham" is very dark and ominous; "The Fox in a Hole" has a folky beginning), the music is generally complex and electric and busy. Softer sections do occur as do wilder and angular sections. There aren't so many vocal melodies, though "The Fox in the Hole" is something you could sing to. This is an album that takes a bit of growing but rewards with each subsequent listen.

I have one criticism and that is the sound quality. I find it a little dense. Loud music is often recorded densely; however, I went and checked a site that rates dynamic range of albums and found "Grappling" was rated at 05 average with a maximum of 06. This is pretty low and not good. Bad is a rating of 01 to 07; Transition is 08 to 13; and Good is 14 to 20. It's interesting to check out albums on this site because you can see how original releases in the 1980's had a decent dynamic range but later "remasters" compressed the sound and made the quality worse. It's only recently that 3rd, 4th or even 5th edition remasters have made an effort to return to a Good dynamic range. One guitarist remarked to me that he could see a good business in record companies remastering remastered albums with poor dynamic range back to their original dynamic range. Sad to say that many new releases are also compressed and dense. On their own they might sound okay or at least after the first track or two but comparing them to other albums with more DR or in some cases, just listening through to the end, and you begin to notice that something has been lost.

Dynamic range aside, the music and song-writing and performances here clearly indicate why this album did so well on PA in 2015. Incidentally, their previous album "Quickly, Quickly, Quickly" has the highest dynamic range of all their albums with a maximum of 11.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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