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Mr. So & So - The Overlap CD (album) cover


Mr. So & So



3.33 | 29 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This is a band who I saw supporting Marillion some years ago, during the This Strange Engine tour. At the time I thought they were, well, "so so", if you will pardon the pun, and I lost track of them really, although that was not difficult as it was to be over a decade between this release and the follow up. With new work in preparation, the band have re- released this album as a free download (see the relevant forum post for the link) to try to generate some enthusiasm.

There are some good moments on this album, and when they are good, they are very good. There are also, unfortunately, some throwaway moments, and the decision really is whether these are enough to put off the potential buyer's interest in exploring them further.

I think the first thing I should clearly point out is that you should not be fooled by the Prog Archives sub genre label of neo-prog. This is, at best, crossover prog, and really prog related in parts if I am to be honest. Mr So & So, on this evidence, are a good mellow rock band with prog tendancies. Sure, there are sections where prog influences are heard, Marillion being the obvious one, certainly as far as David Foster's guitar work and Kieran Twist's keyboards are concerned, which have Rothery and Kelly admiration stamped all over them. Regrettably, they are not as good as the masters, but that would, in this listener's eyes, be next to impossible anyway.

The album opener is truly shocking. Metaphor is a mess of a post indie track, meandering into a welcome conclusion, and this is dangerous as it might put off many from exploring further.

Thankfully, the band redeem themselves in the wonderful, gentle, prog layered Spacewalk, where Foster especially is on very good form.

The throwaway label reasserts itself with Drowners, another meandering track featuring at its heart Kieran Twist's early Mark Kelly impersonation on keyboards, whilst Shaun McGowan reminds me very much of a New Romantic singer whose name is infuriatingly beyond me. Far too light to be anything other than an interesting diversion, it is pleasant, certainly, but instantly forgettable.

Isn't It Amazing is basically a pop rock single that is fun, but, again, throwaway.

The opening riff to Subterfuge offers a very welcome change of pace and direction. McGowan, at last, provides us with evidence that he is a rock singer, and the band sound far more convincing as a unit on a track which reminds me of a couple of the more thoughtful tracks from Holidays In Eden with the contrasts between rock, pop, and prog inside the eight minutes available, with all the time signature changes that description suggests. There are also some nice cello effects (unless there was an uncredited real thing at work!). All in all, a good rock track with rich prog undertones.

This welcome tone continues in the shorter Salamander, featuring some excellent vocal interplay between McGowan and the backing vocalist, Charlotte Evans, on the chorus. The latter also, for the first time on the album, comes into her own with a lush vocal solo, but the track is especially memorable because of Twist's rich keyboard layers both overlaying and leading the riffs. On the first few listens, this is very misleading in its apparent simplicity, because it is actually a very clever and well performed rock song.

The title track has God himself guest performing. Naturally, Rothery is instantly recognisable, and this is a piece of music as good as the opener is bad. Whilst it is clearly written at the same juncture in the band's development, The Overlap has an urgency and emotion palpably missing from Metaphor, and for the first time you hear Leon Parr's drums and McGowan's bass leading rather than following the action.

The best is saved until last. Coup De Grace is precisely that, an epic eight minute plus track which commences with some extremely dark, and extremely good, vocal effects and harmonies, backed by a heavy, lingering synth. The changes of mood in this piece of music are exceptional, it is extremely well performed, and is a joy to listen to. Twist excels on piano and keys, and we hear far more of Evans, and she adds so much to McGowan's feeling, melancholic vocals. The symphonic passages on the chorus are brilliantly performed. in conclusion, this is a glorious prog rock track which manages that difficult trick of pulling you in and back out emotionally.

This is a good album overall. Criticisms are that Evans is criminally underused, because when she is allowed to express herself, she shines. More of her, please. When the album plods, it plods badly. However, what we used to call side two reasserts this album in a very strong fashion, almost an act of redemption, and to return to my earlier query about wishing to explore further, then the answer is a clear yes. The concluding track and Spacewalk, especially, are amongst the best I have from this period.

Three stars. A good album that I would heartily recommend.

lazland | 3/5 |


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