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The Tangent - The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery CD (album) cover

THE SLOW RUST OF FORGOTTEN MACHINERY

The Tangent

 

Eclectic Prog

3.98 | 323 ratings

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Walkscore
5 stars Poignant and Pointed.

Tillison wrote that after his heart attack he temporarily lost interest in music, and he even thought about wrapping up the band. But clearly inspiration struck, disturbed by the xenophobic politicking around the Brexit vote, and he again found his voice. This is one of the strongest and most poignant of the Tangent albums. Roger Waters has said that really all that matters about an album is whether it moves you, and in this album, the Tangent does this very well. It also happens to be an immensely musical album. It seems to me (and I said this in my review of the previous album too) that when Tillison is driven to write out of a concern for social justice, not only are the lyrics more original and inspired, but the music as well.

The band here is virtually the same as on the previous album (Tillison, Reingold, Travis and Machin - this continues the Luke Machin era), but with one exception. Morgen Agren (drummer for Kaipa, among others) does not appear. Yet, instead of finding another drummer for the album, Andy Tillison fills in on drums himself, and does an amazing job (!!). He had previously filled in on guitar on the album 'Down and Out in Paris and London' when they found themselves without a guitar player (before Luke Machin arrived). The drumming here - as you might guess given this is the Tangent - is difficult. Yet, Tillison pulls it off as if he were Agren - once again showing himself to be a really impressive multi-instrumentalist.

The music is really excellent through and through. It begins with song that is both emotional and intellectual at the same time, "Two Rope Swings", which compares the lives of, on the one hand, kids growing up in Britain, like Tillison, and on the other, those whose otherwise very similar dreams and needs take a very different direction in Africa. The song is wonderfully evocative, very human, yet at the same time a devastating critique of the trade and foreign policies that have meant deforestation, poverty and poaching in developing nations. The music is equally great. The second track ("Doctor Livingstone I Presume") is an extended instrumental, and one of the best-ever Tangent compositions. Luke Machin really shines on this track - really musical soloing. This makes you wish the Tangent wrote more instruments. The title track is "Slow Rust", is a 22-minute epic in the usual Tangent vein, but lyrically focussed on how a lack of standards, professionalism and morals among the tabloid media in the UK have used xenophobia, hate, and racism to sell newspapers in the face of the internet onslaught. Musically this is again very strong, although it perhaps could have been a bit shorter. Following this is another excellent track "The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine", musically similar to the opening song, which wraps a discussion of the effects of aging on friendships together with a social commentary on the difficulties of having a real public discussion in which opposite voices are not talking past each other. The album ends with the tune that Tillison posted on the Tangent website early, well in advance of the publication of the album, "A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road", a 17-minute epic of sorts but which is narrated, more like a radio play (in similar vein to Wakeman's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'). Here, Tillison compares the politics of right-wing populism, like that in the Brexit vote, Marine Le Pen's politics in France, or the Trump administration, to previous historical epochs. The inside of the album jacket contains a wonderful political cartoon on the same theme from a UK perspective by Mark Buckingham. Despite the clear political agenda here, the music is still very good, with a number of musical themes returning and intertwining to match the political story, making this worth listening to not only for the voice-over/lyrics, but also for the music (although one cannot help but hear the story, making this one track perhaps less flexible than the others). Thus officially ends a fantastic album. A bonus track ("Basildonexit") follows, however, continuing the general theme, although very different musically - a somewhat dancy-electronic number. It is weaker than the rest, but if one ends the album right after "A Few Steps..." and skips the bonus track, one still gets a full 74 minutes of excellent music. Really high value for money.

This album is clearly political. Some may not like this, wishing for a return to the more prosaic lyrical themes often found in regular rock. But when the lyrics are as good as this, I think they really add to the music. Furthermore, on this album I happen to think that the politics have been an important inspiration for the creation of some really great original relevant music. On the Tangent website news and blog section, there is a picture of refugees caged behind a fence, with the question "If these guys were in a band, do you think they would say "politics does not belong in music"?". As a life-long fan of Floyd, Waters, Wyatt, and a host of others, I can't help but identify with this general sentiment. Tillison acknowledges in the liner notes the situatedness of the album, that it came out of a very specific time and place, and suggests that years in the future, listeners may look back and consider it dated. This may be true, but I think the underlying message is one that transcends the here and now. It is a very human message, and like Waters in his recent song "Deja Vu", something tells me this is a message that not only will remain relevant for future societies, but one that we probably will need to keep hearing. But regardless of all that, the album is truly a musical accomplishment - one could ignore the lyrics entirely and just focus on the music, and would be thoroughly impressed. It takes a few spins though, with the lyrics so foregrounded, but once you have listened to it a number of times, the sheer musicality becomes evident.

Overall, a really fantastic album. One of the Tangent's best, and a stunning comeback from the less inspired previous album. I rate this album 9.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which places it in the 5 PA stars Masterpiece category. Highly recommended.

Walkscore | 5/5 |

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