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The Muffins - Double Negative CD (album) cover


The Muffins

Canterbury Scene

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars The Washington quartet's latest album on Cuneiform is yet another proof that they are one of RIO's more prominent and impressive groups, with their now well into the third decade career, even if there was a big gap in between their two phases. The Scott and Newhouse lead quartet is still basically the same as it was in the late 70's and most members still play more than one instrument even if sears and Swann only play their respective bass and drums and share the acoustic and electric guitar duties respectively. Among the guest are a brass section and a strings section, and the recording took place over a two-year gap between 02 and 04. So in terms of non-posthumous release, this album is maybe (not exactly sure) only their third one and comes two years after their Bandwidth, which saw them return to affairs.

Another typical Muffin album that ranges sonically from Mirage to 185, although the harsh sounds of the latter are rarely present, preferring Canterburian soundscapes, slight Zeuhl touches (Angel From Lebanon and Stethorus Punctum), and the slight RIO of Unknown Rights. Some of the tracks are spine tingling, like the opening Highlands or its follow-up Writing Blind, while others can appear to be lost in the shuffle. On of the small gripes I could have is that one of the synth's sound is not always the most inspired and unfortunately it comes back a bit too many times for me. Another gripe is that their derivative sound was fun in Bandwidth, here sounds less interesting .. and more. derivative!!! (are you sure you're following me?)

While maybe not the best Muffins album, Double Negative (this makes a Positive) is certainly an album to own if you are more than a casual fan of the band, even if not groundbreaking or even innovative. I'd suggest most wanting to check the new Muffins sound to start with Bandwidth, which was

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Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Double Negative" is the playful title for The Muffins' second release after their early 90s reunion. The genius remains the same and so does the iron will to deliver refreshing challenges in the area of progressive rock; the technical mediums are different in the sense that they are enhanced, and so, the band's taste for impressive textures and refined instrumental interplaying can be better conveyed to the listeners' ears than in earlier albums. In fact, this album incarnates the sort of sound production that this band always deserved. 'The Highlands' kicks off the album with initial cosmic nuances on synth and sax followed by an exciting main body that sounds like Happy The Man-meets- Shadowfax. 'Writing blind' bears a more muscular sonority, featuring wild sax interventions and an exquisite dynamics provided by the rhythm duo. The alternation with softer passages competently completes the track's sophisticated aura. 'Choombachang' has a quite Zappaesque title? and it certainly sounds very influenced by Master Frank in his big band-oriented albums. 'The Ugly Buttling' states a combination of dissonance and eerie moods, and much of this contemplative stance is preserved in the sequence of 'The Man In The Skin Painted Suit' and 'Childhood's End'; but then comes 'Exquisite Corpse', a mischievous piece whose patently extroverted mood is humorously ornamented with creepy brass and weird guitar and percussion interventions. 'They Come On Unknown Nights' focuses right away on the band's sordid side, albeit religiously preserving a sense of exquisiteness; segued into 'Cat's Game', the following track, the pair offers a vision of The Muffins' RIO side (somehow confluent with the artistic ideology of Thinking Plague). From this moment one, the repertoire becomes dominated by the band's calmer side, providing enough variations to keep the music interesting and the listening experience engaging. 'Stethorus Punctum' explores soft Canterbury-related moods, while 'Dawning Star' stages an encounter point with the World Music standard (with added density) and '5:00 Shadow' states a sensual, relaxing groove (including slight shades of RIO). I feel that this particular should have been a bit longer, but it is still great, and so is the deconstructively oriented 'Metropolis'. Whos adventurous vibe is solidly comprised in a warmth framework and over a polished rhythmic basis. 'Angel From Lebanon' combines evocative and grayish passages until the closing agile jam delivers a Hatfield-meets-Soft Machine groove. The couple of 'Frozen Charlotte' and 'Maya' provide a captivating lyricism, in this way paving the way for 'The Two Georges' to close down the album on a Canterbury- meets-RIO note: a special mention goes to its bizarre organ intro, very gothic indeed. I love this album very much: I regard it as the manifestation of The Muffins' finest hour. I'm frustrated that I discovered this band so late (last year), but now that I did, my prog collection has benefited immensely from Muffins albums such as this masterpiece.
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Posted Thursday, November 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This is one of the rare albums that THE MUFFINS have created that I have a hard time appreciating. Some of that is due to the length i'm sure as it clocks in at over 78 minutes. Now don't get me wrong there is so much that I enjoy about this album but at this length it's difficult to maintain a high level throughout. Lots of guests helping out too which doesn't help either in my opinion. Horns and strings are added by these guest musicians.

"The Highlands" opens with atmosphere that continues for some time. I'm not a fan of the sound when it changes after 3 1/2 minutes. Sax comes to the fore late. "Writing Blind" opens with piano before it kicks in. It settles with piano again before kicking in one more time.

"Choombachang" is horn led and is somewhat catchy. "The Ugly Buttling" is a funny title and this is the first song that I really like. Well the early part with the organ is the highlight.

"The Man In The Skin-Painted Suit" is a good song with that rhythm, horns and piano standing out. "Childhood's End" features blasting horns trading off with the piano. Flute leads before 5 1/2 minutes.

"Exquisite Corpse" sounds better 1 1/2 minutes in. Percussion and intricate sounds follow. Horns and bass lead 2 1/2 minutes in. Spoken foreign words come in then the music returns after 4 minutes. "They Come On Unknown Nights" has strings and a classical vibe. Drums as the tempo picks up before 2 minutes.

"Cat's Game" is a horn led piece for the most part. A calm after 2 1/2 minutes with keys. "Stethorus Punctum" picks up before a minute but the tempo will shift often.

"Dawning Star" has atmosphere and whistling. A beat after 2 minutes but it's still laid back. "5:00 Shadow" and the next three songs are excellent.This one has some good bass and horns. Horns are letting off some rips on "Metropolis". I like it.

"Angel From Lebanon" has some piano and flute standing out while "Frozen Charlotte" is good too. "Maya" opens with keyboards, bass and cymbals. Horns join in. A relaxed song really until the drums arrive. "The Two Georges" has pulsating organ with sax and drums. Nice bass before 4 minutes.

So a good album no doubt but this is way down on my list of favourite MUFFINS albums.

Report this review (#501243)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2011 | Review Permalink

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