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Horslips - Aliens CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.29 | 20 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars It would take an extremely liberal definition of Prog Rock to include this once-popular Irish band in its ranks. Let's face it: how "progressive" could any group be that specialized in dancehall jigs and traditional reels? But the best of their early '70s music has always held a place of honor in my record collection, alphabetically and aesthetically somewhere close to JETHRO TULL, against whom they were often compared.

And not without some justification, although the HORSLIPS career arc was in many ways a mirror image to Ian Anderson's. TULL began its life as a Blues outfit, only later adopting an ersatz Celtic Rock sound, while HORSLIPS was a genuine Celtic Folk Rock group that eventually rediscovered its rock 'n' roll roots.

The turning point was their popular 1976 concept album "The Book of Invasions": the highest rated HORSLIPS album thus far here at Prog Archives (although far from their best or most representative, in my opinion). Fans tend to ignore the band's later, more mainstream efforts, and this unofficial sequel to "The Book of Invasions" was where many jumped ship, despite it being the closest of cousins to the earlier album.

"Invasions" was subtitled "a Celtic Symphony". Maybe if "Aliens" had been called "an Irish Immigrant Concerto", it might be better remembered today. Too bad it isn't, because this is probably the strongest of the band's late period rock albums. Like its immediate predecessor "Aliens" is a concept album about a culture in transition, during the 19th Century potato famine that saw the Irish population uprooted westward across the Atlantic Ocean, in search of a brighter future. But don't worry: the songs haven't been forced to fit any spurious narrative, and each can be enjoyed on its own merit.

There's certainly no shortage of musical hooks, from the galloping album opener "The Wrath of the Rain" to the equally energetic "A Lifetime to Pay". You can hear the Ian Anderson influence in Jim Lockhart's flute work during "Second Avenue", sounding enough like the old Tull classic "Teacher" to almost warrant charges of plagiarism. And Johnny Fean's six-string solo in "Speed the Plough" is an air guitarists dream come true.

This and later HORSLIPS albums are perhaps too locked in a 1970's time warp to be anything more than a guilty pleasure today, especially for self-conscious Progheads embarrassed to be caught listening to anything with a simple verse-chorus structure in 4/4 time. There's room on the music shelf for both the old and the even older material, but it's strange (or maybe not) how the band's earliest music has dated so little by comparison.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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