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Mancunian Candidate - Mancunian Candidate CD (album) cover


Mancunian Candidate


Crossover Prog

3.29 | 6 ratings

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3 stars Mancunian Candidate is a clever play on words , referring to the classic movie Manchurian Candidate , a thriller of the highest order, the original 1962 film featuring Sinatra, Leigh, Harvey and Lansbury, the newer one in 2004 with Denzel, Meryl, Liev and Voight. Both are wildly entertaining. Matthew Swindells , a former citizen of Manchester, England was the former drummer of Moth Vellum, a succesful US prog band that later morphed onto Perfect Beings . The drummer/vocalist presents a 14 song set, more in the lighter poppier vein than complex overt prog, with mounds of synths and mellotron, with a huge list of guest guitarists and bassists. There are tonal influences that range from classic Genesis, Yes and KC , to Rush, the Police and 10cc.

The disc kicks off with three brief ditties ''Garden Party'' is the owner of an overt the Police coating, what with the slashing guitars, the loopy bass and the slick drumming. Matthew has a voice that scours the higher registers, much like Eric Stewart, Sting or Jon Anderson. Its brisk pace is refreshing and astute. ''Secret of a Saint'' maintains the loftier pitch, but slows down into a wistful swirl of pastoral emotion, a true showcase of Matthew's vocal abilities (love the way he rolls his Rs), and lyrically condemning organized religion and cultism . ''The Water's Cold'' has a choppier beat, with some crazy synth work that elevates the rhythm even higher, all serving as a brightly paced intro into the world of Mancunian Candidate.

The real gem here is ''Operation Bright Star'' a 10 minute , 3-part suite that incorporates modern sounds that may recall recent Steve Wilson, Neil Fairclogh's pungent bass pushing things along smartly. The instrumental section (''AnimusDominusscrappedonfactor'') is thick, complex and eccentric, a twisting, turning, veering and diving into breakneck speed folly that pleases the ear and the attached mind, while the serene third part leads to ponderous piano musings that soothe the soul and a wrenching vocal. There is a definite clever feel here, the 10cc influence being strong and heady.

The nearly 7 minute ''Circle Lies Unbroken'' has an unmistakable Mahavishnu Orchestra like intro, before the voice urges onward, a definite Rush feel and a severe critique of unruly corporatism, a condition that permeates modern society that seems to skirt the edges of disaster. The music is playful and imaginative, the coarse lyrics direct and unapologetic. A slashing guitar solo adds drama and urgency.

War is always a good prog-rock subject, and Matthew attacks the cleverly titled ''Mongers Among Us'' with aplomb, the choppy Summers-Sting-Copeland feel very obvious, with nice high-pitched Sting influenced vocals. The bass burps like some machine gone awry, but the gentle rhythm is attacked by a swirly air-raid siren that keeps the edge honed.

The piano-led ''The Phoenix'' has a highly crafted arrangement that skirts the outer edges of jazz fusion, with some cleverly played synth and guitar interfaces, a blending of simplicity and complexity that is quite an achievement. The mood is thick and yet airy, highlighted by some blistering notes from guitarist matthew Charles Heulitt.

The colossal three part ''Too Much to Lose'' is a nearly 14 minute suite that focuses once again on human conflict, a jangly, slashing intro that is heavily syncopated emitting a clear 10cc/the Police feel, but way more choppy and obscure. Swindells' vocals are the bets yet, mellotron waves pushing the groove forward as the Matt Bissonette bass carves nicely with Heulitt doing some amazing licks that pirouette a la Jan Akkerman (jazzier version). This is the highlight of the album, giving the progfan an earful of sounds to ponder and enjoy. This culminates into the more bombastic 'Fanfare for the Damned' section that has a more sombre and brooding sound, the most progressive piece here.

The final nail is hammered in with ''Leslie's Friends'', a quirky finale that sums up the album perfectly, a fine first opus that has plenty to offer, especially in terms of soloing and instrumental display, opening the door to future releases with a more concentrated focus on diversity and perhaps even looking at a darker tone that might push this into even more eventful compositions.

3.5 Manchester options

tszirmay | 3/5 |


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