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Stick Men - Soup CD (album) cover

SOUP

Stick Men

 

Eclectic Prog

3.69 | 92 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I'm surprised this KING CRIMSON satellite effort didn't turn up on the ProgArchives best-of- the-year polls for 2010, but it may have just suffered from underexposure. Even now, three years later, the band has attracted only four written reviews for their entire recorded output, somewhat inexplicably considering their collective pedigree (all of those reviews were about this debut album, by the way).

It couldn't be the music itself, could it? The Chapman Stick is an incredibly versatile instrument in the hands of a real pro, and Tony Levin has long been its busiest ambassador. But this is more than just a studio demo disc: there's real scope here, beyond the unimpeachable chops. The band crams a lot of variety into 55-minutes, from delicate Guitar Craft pointillism to Canterbury jamming; from ghostly Frippian soundscapes to gut-thumping techno-funk; from Neo Prog pomposity to lush symphonic pop, and so on. All of it tied neatly together with a dynamic back-beat, hardly unexpected from Pat Mastelotto: the Tasmanian Devil of modern drumming.

The spirit of King Crimson is never too far away, but this is a trio with its own distinctive voice. And, perhaps because all three players are American, the performances are more relaxed and looser (if no less intense) than in their parent group, with a welcome touch of humor atop the considerable instrumental energy. The comic power-rap of the title track may turn off some listeners, but try to imagine Mr. Fripp applying his OCD virtuosity to such infectious nonsense.

Compare that to the climactic four-part "Firebird Suite", a cover of the same Stravinsky chestnut that used to accompany YES concert walk-ons. This sort of throwback Classical Rock was supposed to have been extinct decades ago, but the Stick Men update is no anachronism (it helps that they chose a piece that was still contemporary exactly one- hundred years after its 1910 Paris debut). The final movement lacks the majesty of the full orchestral original, but the arrangement is surprisingly effective considering it required only a pair of guitarists and a single drummer.

The Crimson King may be forever dormant now, but his throne is up for grabs by kindred groups like Stick Men. Maybe that responsibility is a little beyond their grasp: heavy lies the head that wears the crown, so forth. But with a little more ambition they could certainly try it on for size.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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