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Stick Men - Prog Noir CD (album) cover


Stick Men


Eclectic Prog

3.68 | 79 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Maybe it pays to be wary of a Progressive Rock album with the word 'Prog' anywhere in its title. Sadly, the term still carries an unfair taint of mockery, no matter how challenging the actual music might be.

The new release from Tony Levin's Stick Men trio doesn't approach the nadir of Billy Sherwood's odious "Prog Collective" albums. But it doesn't quite redeem the cinematic self-deprecation implied by its title and artwork either, despite the ace musicianship. The album opens strong, on the chunky downbeat of Levin's trademark Chapman Stick, propelling the title track. But here and elsewhere some persuasive chops are let down by the lack of a genuine lead singer.

The tongue-in-cheek "Plutonium" is a happy exception, with its deadpan comic narration and oddball musical digressions, from Carl Orff to classic Yes. And most of what follows is (fortunately) instrumental, better showcasing the trio's capabilities. Levin puts his Stick through some impressive, gut-punching calisthenics, matched by his whirling-dervish King Crimson rhythm buddy Pat Mastelotto.

But the songwriting sounds oddly forced to these ears, as if the band was trying too hard to fit a mold labeled Prog, instead of throwing caution to the wind and attempting anything truly progressive. The tired melody of "Mantra" underlines the album's hairline cracks, by resembling a not-quite successful attempt to break through a wall of writer's block.

The end result is a more accessible sub-Crimson side-project, easy on the ears but hard to recall in detail, even after multiple spins.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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