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The Tea Club

Crossover Prog

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The Tea Club General Winter's Secret Museum album cover
3.77 | 53 ratings | 10 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Werewolves (6:09)
2. Cool Smack (5:59)
3. Big Al (6:12)
4. Castle Builder (4:38)
5. Purple Chukz (4:45)
6. The Clincher (6:27)
7. Will O' The Wisp (5:32)
8. The Moon (4:41)
9. IceClock (5:08)

Total time 49:31

Line-up / Musicians

- Patrick McGowan / vocals, guitar, bass
- Dan McGowan / guitar, vocals, bass (9)
- Kyle Minnick / drums

- Tim Gilles / performer (8), production & mixing

Releases information

Artwork: Kendra DeSimone

CD Tea Club ‎- 796873087650 (2008, US)

Thanks to Snow Dog (Data Standards) for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy THE TEA CLUB General Winter's Secret Museum Music

THE TEA CLUB General Winter's Secret Museum ratings distribution

(53 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (37%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE TEA CLUB General Winter's Secret Museum reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by JLocke
4 stars Modern progressive rock is in a very odd state currently. Alot of newcomers to the genre are discovering new and old music equally, and are therefore accepting of bands regardless of their era. However, the more seasoned listeners of years past are much harder to please. Why is this? Well, some would have you believe that all new prog is made up of nothing more than copycat musicians who only make 'more of the same' music that lacks originallity. This isn't completely true, however, as there are many modern bands today that can still manage to remain utterly original despite the overwhelming volume of past influences.

Yet, there are those too who believe that all prog rock is valid no matter what, and we should just 'accept' that originality is long dead and the new musicians are doing the best they can. This is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the past viewpoint, and is also just as untrue. In my opinion, the reality of modern Prog Rock is somewhere in between. Indeed, while several supposed 'prog' bands today seem to lack the magic that the past masters had (which just happen to include alot of Progressive Metal acts like Shadow Gallery or Pyramaze), there are many more out there that do capture the spirit of the old days by doing the unthinkable; they actually *gasp!* do something original! The bands I'm talking about include but are not limited to: Porcupine Tree, Echolyn, Tool, Ozric Tentacles, Edensong, Rishloo, etc. Then, there are the modern bands that started out in amazing form, but for whatever reason lost their creative path and purpose along the way (bands such as The Mars Volta and Dream Theater are prime examples of this).

So, in a nutshell, modern Progressive Rock is very divided at this point, I believe. Some of the bands out their truly are still trying to push the musical envelope in new and interesting ways, and others are, well, just riding the coat tails of the real pioneers. Basically, the Progressive movement of today consists of obvious imitators, one-hit wonders and then the bands that actually succeed at taking music further. As I listened to The Tea Club's release, General Winter's Secret Museum, the question I had to ask myself was simple: which of the three categories do these guys truly fall into?

Well, obviousely The Tea Club hasn't been around long enough to stagnate, so the second category can be ruled out immediately. But what of the band's integrety? Do they really care about the genre and treat it with the proper respect? Do they look at music from the right perspective, and most importantly, does their sound stand out enough to be considered a valid part of modern Prog? I am happy to say that after several intense listens of this album, the answer to all of those question is a resounding 'yes'!

So why do I love this band? Well, for starters, they have managed to make me feel moved in ways I didn't realize were still vulnerable. I've heard so musch music that considers itself 'prog' by this time that I'm always forced to stand back and take notice when a certain combination of notes or rhythm can surprise me in such a way. Those moments happened quite frequently with me as I listened to General Winter. Also, I love this band because they aren't afraid to write and play what they want. It's very clear to me that none of these tracks were ever written with the intend of being the next radio sensation. There is virtually no immediately accessible content to be found here, which is in no way bad. However, I was very surprised that not one song sounded commercial. Alot of inde bands try to release at least a couple of works that are aimed at conventional audience's short attention spans, but not these guys; they know what they want to say through their art, and accept us sure as hell isn't it! It's all about the music with The Tea Club, no doubt about it.

The album itself has its ups and downs, as does everything, but even the lowest points on the record started to feel valid to me after the first couple of listens. The entire piece is very well orchestrated, and everything feels like it should be there. In other words, by the time I had listened to ''General Winter'' all the way through the third time, nothing sounded like filler to my ears. Every note had a point, every vocal flourish was there for a reason, and the instrumentation always sounded like music. Many bands this day an age have made something of a sport out of technical playing ability, but it's good to see that these guys know when to play alot and when to play a little. Anything frilly or technically flashy was kept in check, and never went past the comfort zone for me. It was the perfect balance of emotion and technique being expressed through the instruments.

The best tracks in my opinion are Werewolves, Castle Builder, Purple Chukz, Will O' the Wisp and IceClock, but all of the songs are great. I was never bored my anything, and things only felt a little too long at one point, which upon my second listen no longer bothered me.

The influences are definately audible, but I must emphasize that The Tea Club is still a breed unto themselves. There may be traces of past bands present in their sound from time to time, but never does anything feel like a blatent rip-off, and I still can't think of any one band that sounds even remotely similar to these guys. Trust me, this is the real deal as far as originallity is concerned. Some of the influences I managed to pick up however were Beatles, King Crimson, and even some Symphonic prog bleeding in there every now and then. But don't think that Prog is the only thing that has influenced these guys. Interestingly enough, grunge and garage-rock also plays a significant role in this band's exciting new sound. For every Robert Fripp-ism present, there is also an equally valid burst of energy, with distortion and aggressive power-playing. Don't worry, this isn't Nirvana, or anything, but there is enough heaviness to the music on this record to make it a potential listen for Rage Against the Machine fans as well as seasoned Floyd conosoiurs.

The musicians featured are very skilled. Many times the playing abilities still floor me. The Tea Club isn't a technically virtuostic band per se, but when necessary, they can definately play some licks that are much more complex than any of the typical pop bands of this era could dream of.

So what do we have, here? We have originallity, rich amount of influences, superb, tight musicianship, music stylings and concepts that push the envelope and ultimately take music places it has never gone before. All of these things scream of Prog in it's purest form. The talent is there, the passion is clear, and the potential is very evident. As long as these guys keep making music, and make it for the right reasons, their sound will continue to excell and grow and I just hope they recieve as much recognition as possible. They need to succeed and be heard by as many people as possible.

Bottom line: with an exciting blend of garage-rock and classic prog stylings, The Tea Club is one of the few bands in existance today who can truly say that they are completely original. Truly, I have not heard another band quite like them, and in this day in age, that is indeed saying something. This is a prime example of what actually passion and love for originallity in music can bring. As far as I am concerned, this is true Prog in it's purest, most valid form. General Winter's Secret Museum should not be overlooked by any true progressive rock fan.

Verdict: 4 out of 5.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of 2008's brightest spots

It is such a rush when you find one of those "new" bands that makes you smile uncontrollably, one of those bands that feels truly authentic, without the slick commercial gloss of bands whose business has been churning out product for decades. A band whose warmth makes you feel like you'd be welcome at their practice space if you showed up with the beer. A band whose energy makes you feel young again. It doesn't hurt when the material they play is as fresh and provocative as it gets. You will be hearing more about The Tea Club, I assure you. They were a late addition to my "best of 2008" progarchives ballot, I only wish I would have had more time to spread the word before the deadline.

"General Winter's Secret Museum" is the full length debut of New Jersey's The Tea Club, formed in 2003 by teenage brothers Patrick and Daniel McGowan. Successfully seduced by their parent's prog collection the guys enlisted their friend/drummer Kyle Minnick to form the foundation of their new band. I admit I was unable to follow the history of the bass players (forgive me, guys) but it appears that spot is now filled by Becky Osenenko. I don't hear many of the influences that other writers mention when speaking of The Tea Club but I have my own answer for those who ask me what they sound like. While I would fervently preface that TTC sport a highly original personality, I could tell people that one possible description could be as follows: think of the vocal and guitar sound of the most recent Anekdoten album (A Time of Day), add the triumphant swagger of my beloved Minutemen (Double Nickels on the Dime), color the sound wall with just a bit of Kayo Dot's provocative freedom (though much more accessible and frankly, much more fun), and finally sprinkle a bit of honest-to-goodness Pixies/Breeders/Muses melody into the mix. You will be not bludgeoned with fabricated rage, you will not be subjected to 14 minutes of egghead dissonance, and you will not forget you are supposed to be enjoying listening to this. If it isn't obvious to you yet, yes, I love the Secret Museum (and may show up at their space to hang out with their friends..what kind of beer do you guys like?) Sorry, to the music!

The vocals, both solo and the harmonies, are marvelous. But I don't hear the Beatles like other writers do, I hear superb lead vocals as good as Thom Yorke or anyone else at emotional articulation and well-timed falsettos. And in the harmonies I hear the Texas based Midlake (Trials of Van Occupanther.) The guitar sounds vary of course but in the softer atmospheric moments the sound makes you visualize a spider web, the chords often appearing similar, but closer listening reveals the notes to be different and more complex. Subtle pattern shifts and effective layering of the two guitar parts in these moments hold you in trance. Where other writers keep mentioning King Crimson, I believe they sound more like space-punk: gorgeous meditative, spacey guitar-scapes droning on for a bit, balanced with a rock that feels to me punk-inspired (as I felt about the excellent J'accuse album.) Minnick is as good on the kit as the McGowan brothers are on the guitars/vocals, playing with passion but also with the maturity of someone twice his age. There's no slop on the floor around these guys and yet the music is so much warmer than the stringently mathematical types. When the big bass parts and the drums throw their weight at you it feels like running across the beach into the water full speed seeing how long you can run before you fall into the waves, that resistance of the water as you hit it, the band can be that forceful just seconds after putting you in trance. Just don't expect to hear a bunch of shredding here, this band is not about light-speed note manufacturing. They are about the building and diffusing of moods and crafting that approach into a reasonably sane framework that is enjoyable to listen to, I believe for that reason they are well-placed in Crossover. (At least until we have our punk-prog genre dedicated to D. Boon.) Picking the standout tracks is impossible for me as I like them all but if I had to I would name "Castle Builder" and "Will o' the Wisp," both of which project that ethereal magic which grabs me by the throat. The album seems to get better as it goes with the second two-thirds being unbelievably strong.

The lyrics are good as well. I don't pretend to understand all of the things they're talking about in the more "out there" lyrics but I like the poetry of them. I do understand very well the irritation of sage-speak in "Big Al," the capitulation of personal idealism in "Castle Builder," and the regrets of "IceClock." Or at least I understand what they mean to me and that they move me. We've all known our personal Big Als though in his defense Big Al can be pretty fun to party with. With regard to the revolutions of Castle Builder, 20 years on from the age of the TC members I have clearly misplaced mine, though listening to this band play makes it stir inside of me again. Maybe it's not too late.which leads me into IceClock and the fates that await us. I'm not sure how much "new ground" is broken with GWSM and when you've heard thousands of albums how much more ground is there really? So I generally judge a band's originality in terms of their "spark" and personality. Musicians can't attain spark by practicing or working hard, they get only proficiency by doing those things. Spark is something you either have or you don't. It is the mark of a great artist. Spark is what makes me want to listen to this album again as soon as it's finished. It's what keeps the disc on the top of the pile of 75 CDs it sits atop. The Tea Club has it, quite a bit of it actually. Can they spread it far and wide? God I hope so.

The Disc features a quality production courtesy of Tim Gilles and the Big Blue Meenie Studios. He gets an amazing sound down for these guys: light, heavy, clear, or claustrophobic depending on what the mood of the moment calls for. BBMS doesn't think too much of PA Collabs apparently-I really wish I could share some of the hilarious sentiments posted on myspace but my review would be instantly deleted if I quoted them here. I'll only respond by saying Tim did a great job with Tea Club, though I wonder if we all deserve to be painted with such a broad brush. But one colorful phrase he used still has me laughing "with vigor" every time I think about it. I love their artwork inside the booklet and hope they continue doing their own which is so much more meaningful than bands who use "professional album art super-star guy" because the art is coming right from the heart and mind of the person singing to you. So much cooler than the cheesy overblown nonsense on the cover of the candy-prog albums that adorn the front pages of the music sites. All of the drawings here are great but the dark home-scape behind "Werewolves" is simply perfect. [You can get this fine album for only $10 including postage, direct from their website. It was easy and they had it in my hands about 3 days later.] GWSM is not quite 5 stars yet (but might be eventually) though I believe these guys could make a masterpiece if they can keep their musical souls from being stripped bare by the time-vultures of the education and career credentialism establishments. Keep the "boot on their neck" from breaking them, as Roger Waters would put it. Although after hearing the lyrics to their track "Big Al" I don't believe I will venture giving any advice to the brothers. From what I can tell they know exactly what they're doing anyway. My congratulations to The Tea Club and Tim Gilles for delivering a monster debut-I wish you all the best of luck and will be spreading the word.

"there is no revolution if we're all too frightened to die.all day we stare at the lights.know your place.that's where we spend a lifetime.all we had.we sold for sunnier days.on no." [a few selected moments from "Castle Builder"]

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Some months ago I received a collection of demos from this good USA band with a suggestion for Symphonic, as usual we deal with what we have and had to reject the band not because of the quality, but because they are not Symphonic, there's too much happening in THE TEA CLUB to limit them into a narrow genre, so after some time, they found a home in Crossover Prog which is a wider sub-genre.

A couple of weeks ago I received a request of the band to review their debut album General Winter's Secret Museum, I told the band it's a risk because I always say my truth and if I don't like the music I tend to be too crude (to be sincere the samples hadn't impressed me too much), so yesterday I received my autographed copy of the album and I'm glad to say there's nothing to fear, the album is really strong, more than I expected, to the point that I believe they should be in Eclectic or Heavy Prog because I don't find the mainstream connection that justifies Crossover.

As most USA bands from this new century, THE TEA CLUB presents a very elaborate and complex combination of Progressive Rock styles and different atmospheres, they master the dissonances with unusual dexterity for a young band making their debut.

Normally as a Symphonic fan I analyze the keyboards which are among my favorite instruments, but in this case the combined work of guitar and bass is simply breathtaking, this guys don't hide anything or leave the best for the end, they attack the listener with all they have during all the album, which IMO is an unusual demonstration of confidence in what they are doing, the band is good, they know it and exploit it but without arrogance, as the people who know what they want and go for it.

The album is opened with Werewolf, which after a short guitar intro leads to a vocal passage where the vocalist attacks with ferocity but strangely for this era where technology replaces ability to sing, the vocals are very good.

The changes are very dramatic, from almost metal sections to soft passages where a melody calms the mood, great track that somehow reminds me of King Crimson with a touch of Mike Oldfield.

Cool Smack is different to the opener, the band hits the audience from the first note, again the dissonance between instruments and vocals is a prove that we are before a group of very skilled musicians, the vocals blend with the rest of the instruments to create a solid sound, very elaborate track.

Big Al starts simpler and closer to Classic Rock with an outstanding vocal and guitar work, but the dramatic changes don't let us forget we are before a Prog band and a very good one. As the song advances the music goes in crescendo but they manage not to explode in a sole sonic wall, they have several short bursts of strength, great drumming.

Castle Builder begins as a power ballad with a very oneiric atmosphere, flows soft and gently, but after a few seconds you notice they again go in crescendo like announcing a spectacular explosion that never happens, another strong song.

Purple Chukz is a strange combination of a solid melody with a dissonant sound, like if they were getting closer to Post Rock, being that it's far too elaborate to be Classic Rock, again the guitar work is fantastic

The Clincher begins in the purest KING CRIMSON style with controlled cacophony over a basic melody, the band starts to wander in some sort of Space Punk, until the vocals place their feet in the ground, frantic from start to end, love that distorted guitar that reminds me of Lark's Tongues in Aspic.

Will O' The Wisp is a relieving track, despite the elaborate arrangements and complex passages that reminds me a bit of THE BEATLES, probably this is the reason of their inclusion in Crossover, but hey, after a few seconds of calm, the complexity returns, even when the melody remains intact, the guitar produces an incredibly elaborate effect, again with a touch of KING CRIMSON and believe it or not, Flamenco style.

The Moon starts as the simplest song, but the excellent vocal work and apparently a keyboard takes us to a different dimension, dreamy, but intense enough to grab the attention of the audience specially in the strongest sections.

In Ice Clock THE TEA CLUB changes their sound to an Alternative style somehow reminiscent of RADIOHEAD but with much more complexity, a strong closer for a strong album.

I very rarely give 5 starts to a debut album, specially when I believe they have more to give, and this will be no exception, 4 stars and will be waiting with impatience for their next release.

Strongly recommended for fans of good and aggressive Prog with elaborate melodies and high level of complexity.

Review by Angelo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A perfect 4

At the time of the election of 2008's ProgArchives Collaborator Album of the Year, I had not heard the music of The Tea Club, otherwise they might very well have made it into my top 5 for that year.

Anyway, now that I've heard General Winter's Secret Museum quite a few times, I am pretty pleased that it's part of my music collection. Whenever I browse through the huge collection of bands available in the ProgArchives database, I come across fewer bands that I know and have heard than bands that I have never heard, nor heard of. Still, over the past few years my horizon has expanded quite a bit, and with The Tea Club I can safely say that I have not heard a band like this before. That is to say, they sound familiar in many places, but the bits that I think I recognise come from so many sources that this can be considered a unique blend. Guitars, electric and acoustic, that could be borrowed form Rush, King Crimson or Porcupine Tree, great drum work, vocals that would make many a singer very proud - including the likes of Peter Hammill, and great compositions, there's load to listen for.

I have given up on doing full track by track reviews, but I'll mention a few random examples of what niceties are to be found here.

The opening track, Werewolves, with a pounding rhythm defined by both the drums and the rhythm guitar explains in full why this band is in Heavy Prog. At least, until the mellow, and sometimes almost sweet instrumental interludes come by. The band is surely not afraid of contrast in a track.

Castlebuilder opens melodically with picked guitars and limited drums. The track develops into some sort of ballad, alternating between very mellow parts with only guitar and vocals to almost symphonic and more heavy parts. The track ends almost prematurely, although not as abrupt as Dream Theater's Pull me Under, leaving the listener waiting for the conclusion. Instead, one is treated to the musical chaos of Purple Chukz, which may not have misstood on any King Crimson or Van der Graaf Generator album, which is followed by the punkesk The Clincher.

At the end of the album we find Ice Clock. This track is in some way related to Purple Chukz, but it's more stretched and definitely more modern sounding than the Crimson flashes in that track. This track is also a good illustration of what the McGowan brothers are capable of as vocalists. I am not sure which of the two is the lead vocalist, but if they take turns there this band has the most amazing vocal army available in modern prog land.

Two things are for sure. First, if I read this review again in four months time, I will probably feel like revising it. Not because what I wrote is not true, but because I will very likely have discovered new things in it that I missed in the first two weeks of listening; this band loves diversity. Second, this album scores a perfect 4 on the PA rating scale. Five stars could be awarded in time, but I believe masterpieces have to prove themselves by standing the test of time.

Closing note: thanks to Dan McGowan for providing a complimentary review copy - I'll definitely buy it's successor to make up for it.

Review by Muzikman
4 stars The Tea Club sounds like a perfectly innocent and unassuming name but do not let the serene CD cover and band name fool you. As you will learn when you open up the General Winter's Secret Museum CD the sleeve enclosed and the artwork does get a bit more interesting and the lyrics are included to set your mind reeling.

This band sings and plays with ferocity and purpose. While only three members comprise this progressive rock unit, they sound like much more. A full sound comes at you constructed with guitars, drums, and bass as it swoops down and sucks you into every hair-raising storyline.

The Tea Club is Patrick McGowan (vocals, bass, and guitar) with Brother Dan (vocals, guitar) and Kyle Minnick (drums).

As things kick off the album you are immediately brought into the macabre with "Werewolves." This is a potent tool for mesmerizing you and creating interest and excitement about what you are hearing while intently listening to their own personal take on the legendary transformation from man to beast. Guitars, bass and drums thunder as Pat McGowan bellows "I just need a little time, this is my Mr. Hyde. well I am down and I am wearin' thin, I can't help but keep hurting you", as the words roll off his tongue they cut like a knife right through you. As all of this unfolds, all I can think of is a Halloween night where The Beatles meet King Crimson and they start jamming. This vision kept coming to me throughout the run of this CD. Low and behold, their biggest influences happen to be two of the bands I just mentioned, so there is no shock here, just a bit of validation from the perspective of a listener and music fan. This was the best song on the album and marvelous way to introduce themselves to potential listeners while simultaneously creating some interest to hear more.

I bet some of you are wondering where they came up with the title for the album. I am always pondering what the title and artwork mean. If it is not obvious and in this case, that applies, you have to wonder what the significance is and just how it all ties in to the big picture of a project. The term General Winter, is a name used for the horrible weather the Germans experienced while trying to invade Russia in World War 2. Pat McGowan then added in the rest of the title and the band loved it.

The title track of all things gets the boot because the band thought it did not flow with the rest of the album. In this case, they should have put it at the close of the album and I do not think removing that track was the best decision.

At times, they do pull off some beautiful Beatles like harmonizing so the thought process may have been that this would easily cross over to pop-rock territory. Regardless of those elements, the fans that listen to this music expect bombastic opuses lasting 7-12 minutes, it is the norm, the music is far from being top forty or pop and it does not take long after hearing the way the tracks come at you that they are doing their best to make a progressive album. If you want to hear the title track then visit the band's profile here where you actually can listen to 15 tracks with the option to purchase and find out for yourself where they are coming from. If anything, it entices people to go check it out, so that is a positive gained from a somewhat odd decision to eliminate the title track.

Getting back to the rest of the album-it is solid, not a great piece of work but very good and this band has the potential to be great. What I heard was a steady blend of music that did tend to go back and forth in waves of varying sounds and emotions, which is the standard for the genre. The variations with rhythms, beats and guitars are interesting and definitely not something that you would hear on the radio.there are no 4/4 time syncopations or drum click tracks buzzing in the ear of their drummer, no way. Besides the lead off track, this album did tend to flow together too easily from track to track for this type of music.

What I think needs work here is to develop more complexity with the song structures they already have, which are excellent, by simply adding some layered keyboards or a driving Hammond B3 on a regular basis. With that, the entire picture could change and they may very well become the band they always dreamed of being. Again, this is just the beginning for them and it is a real good start. They wrote all the songs, which is impressive. For three people they make some noise and it will remind you fondly of some other great trios that have come and gone since the inception of progressive rock. They reached their goal to get a stripped down sound removing things like a flute and so forth. Perhaps on the next outing those things will remain with additional instruments to beef up their sound and then they will blossom, as I would expect.

Review by avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I got to know The Tea Club after being contacted by Dan from the band since he read my praises for their friends, the NJ based eclectic rock band, The Fun Machine. With clear vocals and powerful guitars and drums, the band plays what sounds like straightforward rock at first, but their musicianship and the intricacies and small twists and various parts in their songs help the outcome achieve what is more than just that original statement.

A warm and heavy chopping guitar riff is your reception as The Tea Club's album starts, evolving into a higher volume song which reminds me a bit of Dredg and Oceansize; however, the band does not stagnate as they present changes within the song about two and a half minutes in, showing a more laid back form, still with the same rich sound. The album in general has a heavy sound to it and the mood alternates from slightly sad to somewhat angry and energetic to moderately happy and anything between those. As one can infer from that, it also means that there is changes in tempo and volume of the music accordingly to appropriately convey these feelings. Thus, the variety comes into play in the compositions and in the spirit they create.

This album will appeal to those who like a creative take on rock, making it more than just another rock band. Song like Big Al, Purple Chukz and The Clincher are very good example of that. It is also a direction I would love to see the band take more and progress to in their future releases. This is definitely where they shine and present their most interesting and captivating ideas, work and playing. A song like Castle Builder shows their more straightforward approach at song writing, which is also effective with its melody and warm rich sound and the melancholic atmosphere it creates. Aside from that, they write quite compelling music, and while I did not find it too catchy, it's definitely enjoyable and very pleasant to listen to and requires several listening "sessions" to grasp it fully. This is a very well produced album with beautiful music and a gripping tone. I am looking forward to their next release.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. Well i've heard this 7 times so far and would describe the music here as modern, energetic and powerful. Like avestin I too was reminded of both DREDGE and OCEANSIZE. That combination of good vocals with often frenzied and powerful soundscapes dominates.

"Werewolves" opens with heavy drums that eventually lead the way and then vocals join in. It settles after 1 1/2 minutes and then the vocals come back with more passion. Another calm before 3 minutes as vocal melodies arrive. Check out the Post-Rock style guitar before 5 1/2 minutes ! "Cool Smack" hits the ground running and I find this song kind of noisy, lots going on. That is until 2 1/2 minutes in, but then it starts to build again. Ripping guitar after 4 1/2 minutes. The acoustic guitar melodies to end it sound great. "Big Al" is a top 3 track for me. This just sounds so good, especially the vocals. It turns to an all instrumental track from 2 minutes to the end. Sounds like KING CRIMSON's "Discipline" with the intricate guitar melodies. "Castle Builder" opens with gentle guitar,while vocals are reserved as they arrive before a minute. A heavy undercurrent does roll in. "Purple Chukz" reminds me that my daughter has a pair of green ones, and a pair of black ones. Haha.This song has a nice heavy sound to it. An acoustic guitar break ends 3 minutes in. Some excellent bass in this one. I like the vocals a lot.

"The Clincher" features a good aggressive sound. It does settle before 3 minutes although it's dark. The guitar comes in and gets louder and louder. Nice. "Will O' The Wisp" is another top 3 track for me. It's lighter to start out but it gets pretty heavy by the 2 minute mark. Great bass and drum work here. The drumming really stands out 3 1/2 minutes in with those chunky bass lines. "The Moon" opens with acoustic guitar as lighter vocals come in. Harmonies too. The tempo picks up before a minute. More killer bass before 3 1/2 minutes. It ends as it began. "IceClock" is my other top 3 song if your keeping score at home. Drums and vocals sound so good here. A calm after 2 minutes but then it does kick back in. Nice bass in this one as well from Dan the guitar man.

I wonder what this band has up their sleeves for the next one, until then I will continue to play this one in hopes it grows to a 4 star rating.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Before I begin my review, I want to thank the members of the band for contacting me and complimenting me on some of my King Crimson reviews. Even if, just like everyone else here, I do not write reviews on a professional basis, receiving kudos is always a pleasure, and even more so when it comes from quality musicians. Therefore, in spite of not being as experienced a listener of 'modern' prog as other reviewers are, I will try to do justice to The Tea Club's debut album in the best way I can.

As some of my fellow reviewers have already pointed out, 'modern' prog is anything but easy to define. There are still many bands and artists around whose main purpose seems to be imitating (though in a very proficient way) the 'classic' acts of the Seventies. However, as much as we may like that vintage sound, this is not what prog is really about. Reproducing faithfully something that sounded fresh and innovative almost forty years ago can be compared to those artists who choose to copy well-known paintings, rather than produce something original: though you cannot fault the technique, the actual content leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, being genuinely progressive does not necessarily mean being wildly experimental, sometimes to the point of inaccessibility. In my view, the truly exciting 'modern' prog acts are indeed the ones who manage to combine mainstream sensibilities (as well as disparate influences) with a genuine desire to come up with something original, something that spells out 'individual', and not 'derivative'.

The Tea Club's debut album, right from its title, "General Winter's Secret Museum", presents the listener with a rich spread of musical proficiency, interesting vocals and lyrics, and quirky, lavish artwork -an almost mandatory component of any self-respecting prog effort. The three members of the band manage to produce an impressive volume of music that is at the same time intricate and accessible enough for those who are scared away by the more avant-garde approach of other modern prog bands. In spite of the myth that sees punk and prog as polar opposites, it cannot be denied that punk and new wave have been huge influences on the formation of modern prog (as is the bastard child of both, the nebulous 'indie/alternative' galaxy). This can be heard on "General Winter's Secret Museum", though not as clearly as, for instance, in the output of the likes of The Mars Volta.

Though The Tea Club's music is undeniably energetic, it is never as outright aggressive that of those bands with a direct punk/hardcore derivation. The vocals (one of the most important factors for a band to be perceived as prog), shared by brothers Patrick and Dan McGowan, belong rather to the Thom Yorke/Matt Bellamy school of singing, though they luckily do not share the somewhat plaintive quality of either. On the instrumental side of things, what most impressed me were the deft, elegant bass lines (partly written by the band's original bassist, Jim Berger), at times reminiscent of one of the greatest influences on modern Crossover Prog bands, the mighty Rush, meshing perfectly with the drums to form a powerhouse rhythm section. Drummer Kyle Minnick's crisp, powerful style comes through right from the initial strains of "Werewolves", the album's opening track, a sweepingly dramatic piece of music, at times bordering on metal.

"General Winter's Secret Museum" is such a cohesive effort that it is not easy to single out any particular tracks for analysis. Considering the very young age of the band members, their music sounds incredibly accomplished and mature, and the compositional level is consistently high. However, like everyone else I have my own personal favourites, two songs that manage to achieve the perfect blend of accessibility and progressiveness. "Big Al" starts in a rather understated way, then abruptly turns into an intricate slice of instrumental brilliance, with especially stunning bass work; while the driving, aggressive "The Clincher" has echoes of King Crimson and The Mars Volta all over it, and could point the way to interesting further developments in the band's sound.

As I briefly remarked at the beginning of my review, I believe the album's artwork also deserves a mention, as the visual aspect has always been an essential component of prog through the years. Dan and Patrick McGowan prove themselves as excellent artists in the intriguing, slightly sinister drawings of the CD booklet, while the cover (depicting what looks like red-hued sunset clouds) is deceptively simple. On the whole, a very stylish package for an equally stylish musical product.

The Tea Club were undoubtedly one of the biggest surprises of 2008, and dedicated prog fans should not miss the opportunity of listening to this album - unless, that is, they are so stuck in a time-warp that they cannot look beyond the classics and their numerous imitators. Hopefully they will continue to grow and progress, without losing the warmth and freshness of their approach. Four solid, well-deserved stars for an amazing debut.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I'll start off by saying thanks to Dan for the free album sent across the pond to the UK. I was excited when I got the parcel, and I was certainly not disappointed by the product, their debut effort: 'General Winter's Secret Museum'. Upon first listen the elements that stood out were the level ... (read more)

Report this review (#258282) | Posted by Jet Wesley | Monday, December 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Well, if I have one hard and fast rule about music that I make no exceptions for its this: Unappealing Vocals Will Not Be Tolerated. Be assured that 'The Tea Club' are as far from breaking this rule as musically possible, placing them right up there with 'Simon and Garfunkel', 'King's X', 'Pink F ... (read more)

Report this review (#200506) | Posted by methodic_progression | Saturday, January 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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