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Squackett - A Life Within A Day CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.25 | 138 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Once it was announced that Steve Hackett and Chris Squire were going to collaborate on an album under the name "Squackett," it was inevitable that a flood of GTR sequel jokes and barbs would come out. Honestly, comparisons to GTR in this situation are just lazy; where GTR was a case of trying to mesh clashing skill-sets in an attempt to make mainstream- oriented rock for a mainstream that no longer had a use for Howe or Hackett, Squackett was a case of rather complimentary skill-sets coming together to make music they wanted to make anyway, with a sense that the music would sell however much it sold. Plus, Squire had made a number of appearances on Hackett albums in the previous few years, and the results had been quite positive on the whole, so the two of them officially collaborating wasn't a big leap.

This basically sounds like a Hackett solo album, with a good dose of Squire's vocals (both in lead and in harmonies) and Squire's rumbling bass (which is prominent in the same way it had been since The Ladder or so), as well as some bits of recognizable non- Buggles elements from Fly From Here. It's definitely a clear step down from Out of the Tunnel's Mouth and Beyond the Shrouded Horizon (it's a low **** rather than a high ****), but it's also a notch above Fly From Here, and somebody coming into this album with appropriate expectations should find plenty to enjoy. Squire's voice (which had been starting to show visible cracks on stage in recent years) is mostly in good form, and while I'm sure he got some "help" from the various production efforts in all parts where he sings, the only glaringly (and embarrassingly) obvious use of Auto-tune comes in "Can't Stop the Rain," an otherwise playful and lovely ballad Squire had written a few years previously. Steve's voice continues to sound fine (in its own low-key way), creating some nice harmonies with Chris in spots, and while his guitar playing doesn't really show much that hasn't been heard in other albums, it still produces some typically interesting stretches.

That said, while I'm quite fond of the album as a whole, I still don't really love the first few tracks, which, in my first couple of listens, really gave me the sense of a couple of old farts trying a little too hard. The opening title track, in particular, strikes me as having some nice moments (especially the first prominent guitar line) stuck in a rather flawed framework. The track is basically a "Kashmir" knockoff (In 2012? Really?), but it also has some ugly guitar tones and an instrumental passage that's seemingly only there because they decided it would be a waste to have a whole album with Squire and Hackett without having any fast "woo prog" passages. I like the vocals and the more majestic moments, but the opening track doesn't really do the album justice.

The next two tracks are better, but each has a feature that makes me raise an eyebrow. "Tall Ships" may have a nice bass riff driving it forward, but the music in the verses is still basically a kind of quasi-funk (with Chris on lead vocals) that sounds silly coming from an old white guy. Everything else about the track, though, is just fine, especially in the parts with the majestic rising "Tall ships, bright stars ..." chorus. "Divided Self" is a fine pop song based around cheery guitar lines, with well-placed vocal effects and a good build into each iteration of the chorus, but it ends in an awfully awkward manner, dissolving the main melody into a discordant version of itself surrounding by ugly sounds. I guess this matches with the "division" of the title, but it doesn't seem at all like a logical conclusion to what had come before it, and I always wish the track was a minute shorter.

This should seem like a lot of complaining for an album that gets this high of a grade, but the good news is that the rest of the album, aside from the distracting Auto-tune in "Can't Stop the Rain," is full of songs that leave a positive impression without any negative residue. "Aliens" was originally a Yes song (with the full name "Aliens (Are Only Us From The Future)"), played during the early stages of the 2008 In The Present tour, and when it didn't make the cut for Fly From Here I was disappointed that this rather pleasant song (a slow ballad with goofy lyrics and some great subtle bits of guitar for texture) that I'd enjoyed hearing would never re-enter my life. Well, it sounds much more at home here than it would have on Fly From Here, and I'm glad Chris was able to persuade Steve to let it be part of the album.

"Sea of Smiles" is a delightfully varied number, centered around a mantra-like chorus (which gets stuck in my head all the time), but which splits itself carefully between a moody "Take These Pearls"-like melody and more upbeat and anthemic parts without there being clear seams between the two contrasting ideas. "The Summer Backwards" sounds like pure solo Hackett, a gentle guitar-based ballad (with great slow winding guitar bits near the end) that can't help but make me think of lying on the side of a green hill on a pleasant summer's day. "Stormchaser," then, is the album's best number, a slow pounding bass- heavy rocker with great processed vocals in the verses, a great atmosphere whenever the title is sung, and great instrumental breaks that make much better use of the combined talents of Hackett and Squire than the title track does. And finally, after "Can't Stop the Rain," the album concludes with "Perfect Love Song," which is a gazillion times more atmospheric and interesting than a song with this title should be.

This isn't an important or great album by any means, but it is a delightful one, and it's a solid inclusion to the roll that Hackett had been on for over a dozen years by this point. If you don't have an aversion to old-fart dinosaur semi-prog, and don't mind a couple of oddly bad ideas here and there, you'll enjoy it.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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