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Beardfish - Sleeping In Traffic - Part One CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.05 | 460 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars It is for albums such as this, and its equally brilliant successor, that ProgArchives exists.

This band, and this album, more than any other, represents the shining apex of retro-prog, the crowning achievement of a band able to evoke the classic progressive period of the 1970s by using associative techniques rather than aping styles and/or melodies, by applying stellar songwriting skills and musicianship laced with wicked humour, by playing what they love and letting the chips fall where they may.

There is simply not a better example of modern retro-prog anywhere. Better, in my opinion, than THE FLOWER KINGS, better than TRANSATLANTIC, or MAGIC PIE, or WOBBLER; better even than ANEKDOTEN, better than any neo-prog. It's like ANGLAGARD's 'Hybris' with better music and great vocals. This is the place you ought to come to if you think good music finished in 1978.

I'm not arguing here that the two-album set 'Sleeping in Traffic' is more creatively original than other progressive bands working at present on the experimental margins of music. This album does not set out as its primary objective to break musical barriers. As it becomes more well-known it will attract negative reviews from those who see it as their mission to disparage anything derivative.

So what makes this so darn good? First, the band's influences are many and varied. They bring the playfulness and acerbic humour of FRANK ZAPPA to the table, and stir in a fair degree of the joyous counterpoint of GENTLE GIANT. This mixture is infused with the symphonic sensibilities of ANGLAGARD and meaningful lyrics (based around the concept of 'a day in the life'), all spiced with an eclecticism not seen in music these days. Underlying it all is rock; unashamed, sophisticated rock. Hooks galore, riffs to remember, vocals with testosterone - evoking KIEDIS and BUCKLEY - clever harmonies, guitar licks, swirly keyboards, thumping drums. Absolutely no weak points, not a song out of place, not an instrument too few or too many. And a symphonic structure that, over the course of two and a half hours of music and two albums, brings us back to where we started with a repleteness I've seldom experienced in music.

Epic grandeur.

It all begins with the glorious 'Sunrise'. This track sets out the band's stall. Step right up, hooks for sale, complex rhythms, a song that goes in many directions, with beautiful piano and acoustic guitar, a great opening theme and thoughtful but not over-cryptic lyrics. You shouldn't have to wait for weeks for this to make sense. Like the best of retro-prog, it sounds familiar without being a shameless copy - so that when the band's original amalgams and fearsome chops appear (such as at 3:30) they are anchored in more than forty years of history. Turn it up loud. Prog rock is rock, after all.

The next two tracks are beautiful counterpoints to that fearsome opening. 'Afternoon conversation' shows they can write an excellent ballad, that this talented bunch know how to do beauty as well as grandeur. A wonderful acoustic motif reminds me of PHIL KEAGGY (look him up). 'And Never Know' returns us to rock territory, back to those complex rhythms, with a top-40 chorus, and is followed by the album's centrepiece, 'Roulette', a mini-epic containing everything that makes prog rock great. A SUPERTRAMP-like opening (complete with cheesy synth) prefaces an ANTHONY KIEDIS-like vocal and we're off into a rollicking multi-part epic exploring religion from a very personal perspective. Enough to get the juices flowing and the brain ticking. Near the end the keyboards deliberately evoke JETHRO TULL's 'A Passion Play' - not to rip it off, but playfully, knowingly, cleverly. 'Dark Poet' is just plain beautiful, a shimmering BEATLESQUE poem of the very highest quality, frankly too good to be buried on an obscure album like this.

'Harmony' and 'Ungodly Slob' - the latter an eclectic instrumental - raise the prog bar even further, both a wild mish-mash of prog sounds from bands as diverse as PINK FLOYD (the octave-separated bass notes), SKY and YES, along with some mellow jazzy chic a la THE FLOWER KINGS, that somehow come together and make sense. 'The Ungodly Slob' ought to satisfy anyone with eclectic tastes. 'Year of the Knife' explores the same territory as the opener, a great rocker that manages to prog out at the same time. 'Without You' offers a short respite, and 'Same Old Song (Sunset)' finished the album - and the day, the first twelve of the 24 hours this two-album concept covers - in exactly the way you'd expect, reprising the opening theme in dramatic fashion.

If you're cruising the archives in search of something original to enliven a jaded palette, move on. Come back when you're ready to hear some splendid music. If you're here to hear prog rock, this is the album for you. The listening won't be difficult. Instant reward for your money.

BEARDFISH is the definition of a band that deserves to be better known. Your turn now.

russellk | 5/5 |


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