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National Health - Of Queues And Cures CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.26 | 372 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Oops, did I put on "Close to the Edge" by mistake? No, no, "Of Queues and Cures" is much different- I was just fooled by those darn birds in the first few seconds of "The Bryden 2- Step (for amphibians) pt. 1". Something should really be done about all the bird sounds, and rain sounds, and water sounds on prog albums.

NATIONAL HEALTH has a lot of jazz influence, so if it's dreamy space rock or medieval madrigal jams you want, you are out of luck. But if quick changes of dynamics, tones, and tempo are your thing, there's few bands that do it with this much excitement. The musicians are stellar- I can't think of another album where I've heard every member of the band shine quite so frequently without resorting to solos. But this is also not precise, soulless fusion either- there's depth and character to the passages, and a sense of fun. "The Collapso" introduces steel drums- not a signature prog sound, but it works well within the playful structure of the composition. "Squarer for Maud" can sound a bit like CRIMSON in tone and structure, except for the "Numenous" voiceover, but this is a wilder and freer sound (I'll bet they perspired a lot while playing). "Dreams Wide Awake" starts in a very 70s boogie rock groove, with a killer fuzzy wah synth solo like EDGAR WINTER's "Frankenstein" wishes it had. This being NATIONAL HEALTH, however, the song soon takes off into different realms, alternately utilizing dissonance and melody, crystal clean jazz sections and fuzzed-out atonal passages.

The remainder of the album shows slightly different sides of the band."Binoculars" is a bit of an oddball, featuring 'crooning' and a bit more consistent melodic content. It's also a bit softer and laidback...perhaps they felt you needed a little rest after the first three songs. "Phlakaton" is a bit of fun, at least for them. Finally, they close with "The Bryden 2- Step (for Amphibians) pt. 2", which bounces for a few minutes and then tinkles off into space.

I can't say Canterbury is my thing- the jazz influence is very heavy, and I tend to like a little more conventional structure to my music. Because of the sheer musical skill and energy, though, "Of Queues and Cures" is definitely more fun to listen to than many bands with a (relatively) similar approach. It certainly is worth checking out by anyone more interested in the complex, intricate side of prog, and the influence on later bands is important.

James Lee | 3/5 |


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