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The Tea Club - If / When CD (album) cover

IF / WHEN

The Tea Club

 

Crossover Prog

3.99 | 161 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars I resisted giving my full attention to this new release for a while despite my immediate liking of the first song I heard because the "Tea Club sound" had gotten a little old, worn, and predictable for me. Don't get me wrong: the McGowan boys are incredible song crafters and never fail to put out excellent, cogent, and relevant albums, it's just that I'm not a lyrics/message guy; I'm a music/feel guy and the music just started sounding stale, too drawn out, too repetitive. (I've been a fan and collector/follower since 2010's most excellent release, Rabbit.) I am pleased to report that with If / When The Tea Club has revealed a refreshing new side.

1. "The Way You Call" (2:39) an all-acoustic guitar supported vocal by Patrick McGowan that I really like--a very refreshing sound for this band--one that I'd love to hear more of. Every sound, every melody line is new and not stereotypic "Tea Club"--which has been a problem for me in successive releases: the sameness/familiarity of sounds and melodic choices. (9/10)

2. "Say Yes" (4:12) travels a bit into "old" territory, though with much better edges and quicker, cleaner transitions. The instrumental performances are so tight and concise! (8.5/10)

3. "If I Mean When" (4:21) opens with distant guitar & mandolin soon joined, in the right channel, by a distant reverbed voice. Nice chords and harmonies. The voice moves front and center and looses its reverb at the end of the first minute before moving into a gorgeous chorus. Great definition of all voices and instruments. I love this more-acoustic side to The Tea Club! (9.5/10)

4. "Rivermen (6:35) opening rather quietly, with a smooth, though ominously restrained spaciousness, the song slowly, patiently develops, grows, reveals, until, in the final third of the song when all of the latent mischief and mayhem is unleashed in an explosion of amazingly raw power and emotion. Now this is a true gem of progressive rock--displaying all of the song-craft that denotes master storytelling through music. One of the best prog songs of 2019! (10/10)

5. "Came At A Loss (4:19) another interesting song for its refreshing newness in sound and style--almost like a smart, quirky sea shanty from SEAS OF MIRTH, SOUL ENEMA, or KNIFEWORLD. It's comprised of more wonderful acoustic guitar founded music over which Patrick sings in his usual way, but the early-DOOBIE BROTHERS-like multi- voice chorus is amazing--melody, harmonies, and engineering of vocal layers. There is simply not enough people making music like this today. (9/10)

6. "Sinking Ship (3:17) kind of a DECEMBERISTS or JACK O' THE CLOCK sound to this one. Pretty, but rather sedate and innocuous. Not a bad song just not a great one. (8.25/10)

7. "Creature (27:45) The greater reliance on acoustic instrumentation continues over the first five minutes. Very fine sound, chord construction, and sound clarity, I just find Patrick's lead vocal style and choice of melodies and intonation to be too familiar. (8/10)

The chorus at the end of the fifth minute is among the finest moments the band have ever produced--on a par to the great sound and vocal constructs of Texas Prog Folk band MIDLAKE and among the best moments of any prog band ever. This section is followed by an extended dream-like interlude of spaciousness filled by guitar harmonics and some really cool synthesizer washes and heavily reverbed vocalise work. (5/5)

At 8:50 we move into a different section--a kind of STEVEN WILSON transition and full-frontal retro-prog-pop assault. Cool effected vocal over heavier organ-based prog section ensues. Cool 80s synth work beneath the powerful "like a wounded animal" vocals. (5/5)

Pure progginess in the complex KING CRIMSON-influenced eleventh and twelfth minutes. Another Crimsonian shift at 11:38, very dense and complex, bouncing back and forth between two or three themes, before a STEVE HOWE-like slide guitar solo leads us into some YES "Gates of Delirium" territory. (9.5/10)

At 13:30 things slow down to a gentle waterfall feel within which some acoustic guitar, electric bass, and almost classical piano support the McGowan vocals. This moves for a brief section into a beautiful rock ballad-like section at 15:25 until a AL STEWART-like sound takes over in the seventeenth minute. Man I love Patrick McGowan's forays into vocalise! (5/5)

Mandolin, spacey synth, muted electric guitar, drums & bass support this awesome PINK FLOYD "Wish You Were Here, Parts VI-IX"-like section. So tastefully done! (5/5)

At the end of the nineteenth minute the music kicks into a full-on rock construct over which an electric guitar sings out with an awesome solo, followed by a similar synth solo and then some vocalise. Beautiful! (5/5)

At 22:00 everything stops leaving the soft syncopated strums of two guitars and some very heavily chorused electric piano to support a gentle vocal. By 23:25 the music has amped up again, recapitulating the wonderful MIDLAKE section, though the acoustic base and slow pace remain as multiple voices sing the band's penultimate message, "All your creatures long for the new creation, Where boundaries of death are ever failing." There is a synthesizer's recapitulation of this lyric's melody in the 26th minute before there is a subtle, gentle, gradual transition to a solo acoustic guitar playing. (5/5)

Patrick McGowan sings the final verse and chorus--familiar to us from the earlier part of the song--all accompanied alone by his acoustic guitar. It's so Cat Stevens like! And wonderful! (4.5/5)

I have to say, that listening to this song transpires into one of the fastest 28 minutes I've ever passed! These guys get how to make a prog epic! And this is definitely one of the best if not the best prog epic of 2019! (52/55)

Total time 53:08

While the first half of this album is less proggy and has a more 1970s classic acoustic/southern rock feel to it, it works. Then there is the epic. Need I say more?

Five stars; a refreshing and undeniable masterpiece of progressive rock music. Well done, TEA CLUB!

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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