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John Wesley - Disconnect CD (album) cover


John Wesley

Crossover Prog

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Second Life Syndrome
2 stars Every once in a while, an album simply doesn't connect with me. Ironically, the album this time is called "Disconnect" by John Wesley. Wesley has a long history in progressive music, being attached to Fish and Porcupine Tree at various times. His multi- instrumentalist capabilities have taken him far. However, here he is with his sixth solo offering, and he has a full band behind him.

Being an excellent guitarist, "Disconnect" is really a guitarist's album. Guitar is front and center, to a fault, I believe. Indeed, Alex Lifeson even guests on guitar for one of the tracks, "Once a Warrior". So, if you love guitar, this might be your thing. I'm rather disappointed, though, as I find that every thing else about this album is completely average or worse. Drums, bass. and even vocals are all humdrum and uninteresting. And don't get me started on the lyrics, which, for the lyric enthusiast, are not worth your time.

Yet, I can complain about the rest of the instruments on this album, but I think the major problem is the horrible mix and the domination of the guitar. For whatever reason, I cannot stand the guitar tone on this record. It literally gives me a headache, even on low volumes. It's steel-hard, loud, and bombastic. It completely masks the rest of the instruments to the point where the band never really feels like a band, but instead seems like background musicians keeping time for the guitarists to bore us to death. Solos go on and on forever without ever having an ounce of soul or emotion. Technical feats come and go without anything truly interesting ever happening. Indeed, most songs sound the same: lame attempt at a verse and chorus followed by a few minutes of guitar drudgery. Rinse. Repeat.

Indeed, ever since I saw the weirdly sexual music video for "Disconnect", I knew this album would never pan out for me, and I was correct. I tried, but I can't get past the boring songs, the pretentious guitar work (especially on "Any Old Saint"), and the aura of arrogance that I can't seem to shake. Rough, blasting guitars mean nothing when the artist can't seem to give them any meaning within a song structure. Indeed, it's difficult to base all your writing on guitar without paying attention to the other instruments, melody, and rhythm. In the end, this album feels like one big set-up for John and company to show off on guitar. You know what, though? The guitar never really impresses anyways. Overall, "Disconnect" is a disappointment and a failure.

Report this review (#1162453)
Posted Thursday, April 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Many people might know John Wesley as the touring guitarist with Porcupine Tree. That's where I stumbled across this man for the first time. Not being a Porcupine Tree Fan, but seeing a concert advertised in a club around my neighbourhood many years ago while living in Germany, I went anyway and was mostly impressed by the guitar player who was "just" the touring guitarist. As I am not a PT fan and did not know John Wesley is also a solo artist, I kind of forgot about him until recently by coincidences I listened to a podcast where he was in conversation with a men's movement coach and psychologist. I picked up that this is the guy whom I saw touring with PT and that he has an album out: "Disconnect". I listened to a few samples and immediately had to purchase the whole thing.

This album, just keep in mind, is not a full blown prog record. The prog references are there, e.g. here and there the PT influence show (especially o the first track and in the general sound of the album), there is a brilliant guest solo by Mr Rush (Alex Lifeson) on the track "Once were Warriors", and the whole album shows off a complex and highly skilled guitar playing, however without going into the "how many notes can I play in a minute" mode. The album rocks (sometimes quite hard), it grooves with regular tempo changes to keep the proggy interested, but it also would appeal to any melodic rock fan. Mr Wesley is maybe not as good as vocalist, as he is as a guitar player, but the vocals still are pretty good and much better than many prog vocalists out there. Apart from his brilliant guitar playing, he is a gifted lyricist, supplying us with a lot of moving and self-reflective lyrics (no wonder he is an interview partner on a podcasts around personal growth topics).

For me this is one of the best releases of 2014 so far. I would be tempted to give five stars, but knowing my preference for the less "proggy side of prog" and my love for more song oriented compositions, I will on a page like Prog Archive stick with four stars. (I would have given 5 stars on a general music site)

Report this review (#1299746)
Posted Sunday, November 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars John Wesley, known mostly to prog fans as a frequent Porcupine Tree collaborator, has created in Disconnect a fine collection of artistic, melancholy, and guitar heavy songs that show off his talents as song writer/singer/guitarist. Highly emotive and electric, Disconnect resonates with angsty melodies and guitar solos; not especially experimental or "prog", but nonetheless soulful and powerful.

In general, we could consider Wesley's songwriting as being a step above pop-rock standards. Songs on Disconnect are typically at the 5 minute mark, with a fair bit of variety. The Porcupine Tree influence is apparent, but this is definitely a Wesley project, and not a Steven Wilson imitation. We're given a range of tempos, dynamics, and moods; sometimes aggressive, other times lush and full.

Thematically Wesley's lyrics on Disconnect are dark, dealing with topics such as the loss of direction in one's life, failing to live up to moral expectations, walking away from those that love us, and nostalgia. Not exactly going to leave you in an upbeat mood, or strike you as being especially well written. The lyrics are fairly conventional; however, Wesley is a great singer, who soulfully sets the mood of the album with his distinct tenor.

Being known for his guitar work with Porcupine Tree, Wesley's playing here may be a key point of interest. In general, he's really good. Disconnect is heavy without being oppressive, electric without being shrill, creative without being pretentious, and emotive without bathos. There is an understatement to the Wesley's playing that gives the songs sort of a hand-crafted feel. On the flip-side, he doesn't dazzle us with virtuosity or complexity. Most of the songs are mid-tempo, and Wesley's soloing has sort of a meandering and bluesy feel. Enjoyable, but not going to grab hold of those coming to the show expecting to be blown away with guitar fireworks. Wesley's backup band compliments the tone of the album well, but the same commentary applies to them as well - there isn't much here that will make prog fans stand up and applaud.

So overall an enjoyable art-rock diversion from a solid singer/songwriter/guitarist. Disconnect will probably appeal to some more than others, especially those who (ironically) connect with the songs' theme of disconnection, though it may find only occasional playing in a prog fan's library.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3- Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1435966)
Posted Monday, July 6, 2015 | Review Permalink

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