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Gnidrolog - In Spite Of Harry's Toenail CD (album) cover

IN SPITE OF HARRY'S TOENAIL

Gnidrolog

 

Eclectic Prog

4.02 | 129 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars In Spite Of Harry's Toenail, Gnidrolog, 1972

Gnidrolog's rather striking debut is both a melting pot of styles and also completely unplaceable, musically. Despite the occasional folk-inspired flute interval, an odd burst of jamming, tender acoustics and equally violent edgy dramatics, the material here doesn't really seem to correlate to any particular style but rather to represent a capable band's very original creation. Obviously, the multi-instrumentalism, with everything from cello to harmonica to piano to guitar handled capably, is an attraction (especially satisfying are Peter Cowling's menacing bass parts), the dramatic vocals are another, but best of all is the group's penchants for strident dynamics. The lyrics, though archetypal hippie stuff, are well-written, clever and still hold some meaning for those of us who missed out on it first time round. All in all, fantastic stuff.

Jarring, biting aggression instantly drags the listener into Long Live Man Dead, ten minutes of dynamic madness, juxtaposing the opening chaos with a quirky recorder, and pulling off admirably the sort of false lead that Tull would take so much interest in by 1973's A Passion Play, crossing wonderfully slippery bass runs with the intentionally stunted aggression of Nigel Pegrum's superbly dramatic percussion work. The lyrics are biting, angry and delivered with as much aspic as Colin Goldring's superb voice can muster. The band's confidence in their dynamics even on their very introduction to recording as a group is incredible, being willing to fade to nothing and then reintroduce themselves with a simmering cymbal only before the lush, pastoral flute and minute acoustics of a folk ballad, and then to pull themselves back to the vicious rock employing the vocals as a sort of linking point, while the rest of the band subtly builds to return the ferocious anger of the opening. A dark bass, almost imperceptibly complemented by unusual guitar, runs us out and into...

Peter, initiated by a gorgeous cello, flute and recorder trio, sinking and rising mournfully, is almost a lament, regretting the passage of the title character from his revolutionary antics to a tedious desk job. The resentful vocals are underlaid with a subversive medieval-feeling acoustic, and a ticking clock segues the end of the piece. Smooth, meaningful and a bold inclusion.

Snails is another dynamic showcase, with some incredibly frantic quiet material juxtaposed with the eclectically loud splintering of the guitar, occasionally backed up by a piano. Spiralling bass and flute or oboe backing pictorially fills out the piece's unforeseeable and crazed energy, and throughout there's both the circular pull of the bass parts, and the gradual dynamic bursts of guitar and e-piano (I think). The vocals feel a mixed need to follow the general dynamic, occasionally complementing with mockery, occasionally using madness as a substitute for violence. Towards the piece's end, theatrical horn and tenor sax (both contributed, I think, by Colin Goldring... what I hear as sax could be oboe... I'm bad at working these out) play out a vituperative duet. Top notch work from Nigel Plegrum, again, for working up such an energetic and violent percussion part without that much in the way of real 'drums'. Really incredibly violent at times; makes Opeth sound like The Beach Boys.

Time And Space, alternately pretty in a sort of casual folk song way and daringly crazed with its own sort of self-destructive fervour. The calm folk open gives way to a thick, block bass-driven rock piece with the occasional Soft-Machine-like overflow. Unusually produced flute and thunderous bass offers up more chaotic vocal work, with a lot of stress on pronouncing the individual words, and the piece comes together in its jazz/rock meets Van Der Graaf Generator way. The heady rhythm section allows for a two guitar jam, complementing and contradicting each other with equal effect. Ten-second drum solo, and suddenly, scat-sung flute work before the regal power of the final guitar chord. Absolutely bizarre, and yet so brilliantly pulled off.

Who Spoke follows this energy with a less emotionally taxing trip, bringing an introspective acoustic guitar to the high-range, endearingly individual voice of Colin Goldring, ranging comfortably from nervousness to hope to anger and defiance to panic. As far as plain acoustic-and-voice goes, this is pretty far out.

Goodbye - Farewell - Adieu is the precursor of the more 'symphonic' and grandiose material their sophomore album would feature, and it's nonetheless significantly more enjoyable than that, with a gorgeous vocal over the sad harmonies (and with such amazing lyrics, 'Goodbye, farewell, adieu, I don't know where I'm going to/I'll return when I've found why/I'm going now, let me see you smile), a momentous bass part and a careful development to the crunching guitar chord and a slow bluesy solo, and while that solo could well be from a faster-paced Floyd song, the imaginative resolution straight into an up-tempo jam is something really quite Gnidrolog, a rhythm section jumping about tribally, a smooth, defiant harmonica soloing all over the place and an impeccably tasteful sense of when to have a little communal break. This reviewer gets the whole defiance meets escapism vibe from this one, with a combination of fun rocking out, great musicianship and Schizoid-Man wailing, coming casually off the whole trip with a chord. Fantastic conclusion.

In many respects, much more compelling than its more lauded successor, and though it's not as easy to deal with, this combination of frantic energetic work and soaring beauty is something I keep coming back to. A must-have, not only for its originality and creativity but also for the genuine moods it represents. Especially recommended for those with an appreciation for the dramatic.

Rating: Five stars, 14/15 Favourite Track: tough choice... maybe Time And Space or Who Spoke

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |

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