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Combination Head - Museum CD (album) cover


Combination Head



3.31 | 36 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars After phenomenal, ELP-ish, self-titled album ("Combination Head") and very solid "Progress?", Paul Birchall & his fellows released their 3rd studio disk called "Museum". Just as I liked their previous albums very much, I have to say that this one isn't even half as good as them. It's not a total disaster but it has a huge amount of flaws which don't let me enjoy "Museum" as much as I expected. Especially drifting towards more mainstream sounding pop/soft-rock & electronics (which already began in their 2nd output) isn't a good choice.

Let's describe those songs and instrumentals one by one:

1. "The Curator" - already first track shows significant weaknesses of this record: too many artificial sounding synthesizers and repetitive, drum-machine like percussion. Because of these factors this instrumental sounds too lifeless. Of course we have some Hammond runs and nice electric guitar leads, but boring drums beat and annoying electronic noises (I suppose they were intended to be "spacey") ruin our pleasure. Not a complete flop (as I said organ & guitar melodies are rather decent) but near.

2. "Particle Zoo" - another track begins even much worse! Lots of silly electronic loops and "atmospheric" synth effects sound like taken from some bad J.M. Jarre or Klaus Schultze recording. To make things worse after a while we're forced to listen to very boring vocal section which reminds me Depeche Mode or something like that. Thankfully after less then 2 minutes Birchall rides his trusty Hammond organ again and tempo speeds-up significantly. Even vocal becomes more aggressive, not so lifeless like in the beginning. Using of acoustic piano & some acoustic guitar is also a plus. Overall not so bad, one of the best track on "Museum" (if not this silly "intro").

3. "Turn me Down" - quite good track with catchy organ chops but very poppy vocals. All in all much more AOR than prog (very "American" feeling I would say). My favorite part of the song is lengthy Hammond organ solo...which is the only organ solo on the whole album! If you remember their fully Hammond-oriented debut it must be a shock for you. Thanks to this solo and electric guitar one, second part of this track is more proggy.

4. "Thyrotron" - the biggest offender on "Museum". Extremely boring synth/electronic fest which lasts for whole 2 minutes. Paul listened too much Tangerine Dream recently or what? From 2nd minute Gareth Moulton starts to play some not bad hard rockish guitar solos but it's not enough to change my mind about this turkey. I have to add: this repetitive synth "plumping" which keeps wandering through-out this track is horrible!

5. "Truth Seeker" - finally almost completely satisfying composition! Truly symphonic sounding composition with melodic guitar riffs and pianos/synthesizers. Real goodie with only slight soundtrackish feeling. Less bombastic than ELP or UK, but still enjoyable instrumental.

6. "Consumer Fool" - wrong! Seems that Paul Birchall spent too long time with pop-stars a la Cher or Geri Halliwell and he became infected with some pop virus, because most of this song is such bubble-gum mainstream pop. Thankfully in the middle we can listen to some nice, Pink Floyd-ish synth soloing but it's still can't save "Consumer Fool". Truly bad.

7. "Museum" - half-baked instrumental + soul female vocal harmonies which sound completely out of place in prog-rock context. Some nice guitar/Moog/organ interludes but that's all.

Overall "Museum" is a disappointing experience if you expected high quality prog-rock music like on first 2 albums of this formation. Too many pop/AOR elements, overuse of digital keyboards, artificial sounding drums, sometimes repetitive compositions - all of these are main sins of the record. However I can't say that it's a total turkey which should be flushed into the toilet. There are still many enjoyable symphonic-prog fragments, some great keyboards solos or memorable parts.

Overall I hope that it isn't Combination Head's swansong 'cos I really hope they will come back to organ-driven, ELP-like format from their debut album.

3 weak stars with huge minus from ozzy_tom.

ozzy_tom | 3/5 |


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