Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

4.63 | 3171 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
4 stars In reviewing Thick As A Brick, I have to be mindful of a peculiar aspect. Do I review the first, powerful impression of the irresistible hook that kicks off this magnum opus? Or do I review the album proper, the whole thing and decide the rating accordingly?

There's no doubt, at least to me, that the first impression of Thick As A Brick, of in fact the first few minutes, is very appealing. It's one of the catchiest, most memorable passages of music in all prog that I have heard. It may not have quite the same effect on every listener, as the reviews evidence, but its enduring popularity does suggest that a good many are thus converted to Jethro Tull and some of these in turn to prog. They were thus the only prog rock band from that era other than Pink Floyd who enjoyed crossover appeal while ELP and Yes enjoyed tremendous popularity in an era that appreciated prog in a big way. A seemingly innocuous bit of acoustic guitar establishes an irresistible hook and, by means of re-iteration, keeps the listener hooked to the track till the very end.

Does the presence of a powerful hook necessarily indicate that it's a great composition? After all, Thick As A Brick is not a four-to-five minute long rock song to get by on a hook. It is a 45 minute sprawl. It dwarfs Echoes and Karn Evil 9 comfortably for sheer length. Prog's resident paleontologist Robert Fripp must have shuddered at the very sight of this excessive stegosaur.

And therein lies the catch. It IS in fact a 45 minute rock song, folk rock to be precise, in the true sense of the word. It is not faux classical in rock clothes or any other kind of music that attempts to imitate a sonata structure and relies on long interludes and/or linear development of melody. It is a set of witty folk rock poems joined at the ends rather adeptly with, again, rock-ish passages of music. The proverbial wall of sound is conspicuous by its absence. Sonically, it remains a rock song from start to finish.

With the result that it runs out of variations by the end. The sheer power of the hooks can mask the lack of variation for only so long. It is not so evident the first few times you listen to the track but after a while, it is rather noticeable. You are acquainted with the music very well by now and want to dig in, looking for depth. And...uh oh, it's not there! There's no great mystery here to unravel. What you see is what you get. It's unlikely you will get too bored of repeating this album, perhaps because it's too long to devote too many single sittings to. On the other hand, it doesn't really get better with persistence either, as a masterpiece ought to. It's basically the same album you heard the first time around, nothing more to see, move on.

I come back here to Echoes. Echoes starts with a simple motif which gradually snowballs into an epic of stunning ambition. This simplicity is reflected in the lyrical treatment of not only Echoes but a lot of Pink Floyd's work in general. The depth lies in the thoughts that Waters seeks to express but they are expressed through relatively simple, lucid means.

Anderson on the other hand attempts to tickle you with witty line after another. There's some commentary in there but it's a bit buried in the details, in contradistinction to the music. Actually, it's not really too cryptic, lest my words suggest as much, but I am just too busy laughing along with the lines to attentively follow the story. Thick As A Brick is entertaining while it lasts but lacks some necessary focus and direction to make a deeper impact. It's like a chaotic comedy caper in that sense.

Which brings me back to that hook. That's what Thick As A Brick is, a funny and very catchy prog rock opus. And...that is the be all and end all of all prog? Could that then be Anderson taking the piss out of the genre he takes not so subtle jabs at every now and then? For all their exalted taste and rarefied airs of seriousness, progheads cannot resist a hook either. Not even if said hook is not quite enough to sustain a 45 minuter.

Me, I am not completely convinced about that. Yes, Thick As A Brick is tons of fun while it lasts and certainly essential listening as far as prog goes. If nothing else, at least to experience a very unique dimension of prog, one that even Jethro Tull could not successfully replicate. But that's as far as I can go. If it's hooks and funny folk rock I want, I think the rock songs on Aqualung do that job just fine. Thick As A Brick is quick out of the blocks, but overstays its welcome. Four stars.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this JETHRO TULL review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives