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Dredg - Catch Without Arms CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.45 | 139 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars I can honestly say that I tried to like this album. I even tried to find some glimmer of hope in a new generation of progressive music inside the cover of the jewel case. But in the end there were at least five distractions that kept me from really appreciating this as a significant work of progressive art: Joy Division, Sonic Youth, U2, half of Tears for Fears, and maybe even a little bit of the Feelies to boot. For some reason I also couldn't seem to get the voice of that guy from Frankie Goes to Hollywood out of my head, even though I haven't heard anything by those guys since they faded away more than two decades ago.

The point is, I really don't hear anything here that's either new or progressive in any way. This sound grew out of a disjointed (but heavily commercialized) movement of artsy college kids back in the mid- to late- 80's and probably peaked, and faded, with the Foo Fighters, and with some of those soundtracks that Simple Minds made their way onto around 1990. There's no new ground being broken on 'Catch Without Arms'. dredg is a very competent, but not overly talented group of musicians that clearly have a top-notch publicist and business management team, and this album has an outstanding job of engineering and mixing in it, but the music itself is rather sophomoric.

The album linear notes and artwork certainly try to attach some sort of 'deep- thinking' meaning to the lyrics, but the cutaway Zen master, creepy-looking three- eyed dude doing the lotus thing, and the anorexic virgin Mary simply come off as rather hackneyed, and I never did figure out the whole jellyfish and penguin thing.

To be fair, "Catch Without Arms" is a very catchy tune, and the song has a strong tendency to stick in your head for days. But the same could be said for Tears for Fear's "Shout" when it came out, and no one heralded that as a progressive masterpiece. Underneath the seductive rhythm and Gavin Hayes' dulcet tone, lyrics like "that's what happens when you compromise your art (heart)" are just plain cheesy.

dredge had couple of promising albums early on, particularly with El Cielo. While that one is rather heavy on experimental sound effects (bordering on the excessive use of said sound effects!), it still manages to have an unpolished and sincere quality to it that leads one to expect the band would develop into a full-blown unique talent. But with Catch Without Arms, it really sounds like the artistic decisions were being made by committees or even worse, focus groups. There isn't enough distinction between nine of these songs to warrant commenting on them individually, which if I'm not mistaken is sort of the definition of 'pop' music.

The three that actually do stand out somewhat are "Jamais Vu", "Spitshine", and "Matroshka", and interestingly enough, each for different reasons.

"Jamais Vu" shows the greatest amount of sound variety on the album, ranging at times from an almost salsa-inspired guitar strum, to borderline white-noise, to a bit of a spacey interlude that actually ends up sort of bringing the song to a close. Coming a half-hour into the album and right after "Spitshine", this was the one that helped me to stir from my borderline slumber after hearing the first eight songs vary so little that I was at times unsure where one ended and another began.

Preceding "Jamais Vu" is "Spitshine", a song that struck me as pure college-indy crap the first time I heard it (along with "Hung Over on a Tuesday", which I still feel that way about). But on closer listen, "Spitshine" actually not only has a really interesting beat, but also is one of the few songs on the album where there is some vocal variety. True, it appears this is the result of studio overdubbing and echo effects of Hayes' voice, but at least it is variety. The guy has a nice voice, but really - his pitch doesn't exactly vary much, and Geddy Lee can testify as to how important a really unique and varied vocal sound is when all you have behind you is a bass, guitar, and drums (and Rush even has synthesizers and keyboards most of the time, both of which are in scarce supply for dredg). I think this song could have easily been fleshed out into a more progressive and detailed work - three and a half minutes doesn't do it justice.

The last song on the album is probably the most interesting. "Matroshka" is closer to the sound of El Cielo than it is to the rest of this album. There are several tempo changes, the progressions are explored more fully than elsewhere on the album, and the overall sound just leaves a good impression on the listener. This one also has some studio-enhanced variety in the vocal department that will be difficult to duplicate on stage without adding another singer, but it's a nice touch here.

Overall, this is a very listenable album from a fairly polished band. The detractors here are that the sound they've polished doesn't break any new or particularly interesting new ground; and the overall 'theme' of the album, such that it is, doesn't exactly rank it in the company of some of the prog gods. I'm hoping the band actually manages to score some sort of RIAA coup here - a gold record or something that will ensure them some recurring royalty income. That way they can comfortably get back on the track they were headed on with Lietmotif and El Cielo, and move away from trying to resurrect a sugary, over-homogenized sound that I thought went away years ago.

This is not a classic. It is technically well-produced and easy to listen to (although I won't insult it by calling it 'easy-listening'). If it were possible I'd give it 2.5 stars, but since that isn't possible, I'll round it off to three.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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