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Henry Cow - Legend CD (album) cover

LEGEND

Henry Cow

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.09 | 157 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: B+

Henry Cow are THE iconic avant-garde progressive rock group (Frank Zappa doesn't count, since he only marginally fits in the genre), known best for starting the Rock In Opposition movement and for their swansong, the masterpiece Western Culture. Before the days of Rock In Opposition and lamentations of western society, however, Henry Cow was a magnificent band playing Canterbury styled prog music, albeit with heavy avant-garde sensibilities. Never is that more present than on their standout debut, the brilliant Leg End, which is both their most accessible album and among their best (behind only Western Culture, and about equal with Unrest).

For good reason, this is widely seen as a good starting point into avant-garde music. It opens with two fun, Canterbury-esque tracks, the standout "Nirvana for Mice" with its iconic theme (or, at least, a main theme that's good enough to be iconic) and the equally excellent, more drawn out "Amygdala". It's not until track three, "Teenbeat Introduction", that their avant-garde leanings start to appear. Across the three parts of "Teenbeat" (intro, main song, and reprise, interrupted by one shorter track), Henry Cow deliver some of their finest moments, particularly on the reprise. Like the first two tracks, there is a strong Canterbury sensibility, but the horn work is far darker and more dissonant than the light, jazzy playing on the first two tracks. It's tough listening at first, but it soon reveals a well-thought-out structure, and is easily the highlight of the CD (when taking all three parts together).

Thankfully, the album loses nothing for the final two tracks, especially the standout vocal piece, "Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" (the only one on the album, excepting the last fifteen seconds of "Nirvana for Mice"). With another fantastic main theme this time augmented by whimsical, half-spoken, half-chanted vocals, "Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" is a perfect example of Henry Cow at their very best, and a perfect closer to the album. Leg End may not be as intense or mind-blowing as Western Culture, but it's a remarkable debut from a band that would go on to do remarkable things, and, as mentioned, it's a good entryway into the difficult to penetrate genre of avant-garde.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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