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Thieves' Kitchen

Eclectic Prog

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Thieves' Kitchen Argot album cover
3.41 | 66 ratings | 10 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. John Doe Number One (20:22)
2. Escape (13:36)
3. Proximity (12:58)
4. Call to Whoever (17:41)

Total Time 64:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Simon Boys / vocals
- Phil Mercy / 6- & 12-string guitars, EBow, backing vocals, mixing
- Wolfgang Kindl / Proteus 2000, Yamaha DX7, Korg M1/X3, Roland JX-8P, backing vocals
- Andy Bonham / fretted & fretless basses
- Mark Robotham / electric drums

- Paul Beecham / oboe

Releases information

Artwork: Geoff Barraclough

CD self-released - TKCD002 (2001, UK)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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THIEVES' KITCHEN Argot ratings distribution

(66 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(27%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (17%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THIEVES' KITCHEN Argot reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
5 stars THIEVES KITCHEN's debut CD "Head" was very good but their new CD "Argot" is even better. It's close to being a masterpiece. It's only one year between the two releases but they have grown and matured as a band, as composers and musicians. This CD is even more complex than their debut with lots of odd time signatures, rhythm & mood changes and lengthy instrumental passages, but the big different lies in the arrangements, compositions and performance. My first impression is that the music is quite similar to new bands such as The FLOWER KINGS and SPOCK'S BEARD but with the influences from the old prog heroes EMERSON LAKE & PALMER, GENESIS, KING CRIMSON and YES ever present. Their music is very much in the 70's progressive rock style. The musicians are very skilled especially the fast fingered keyboard player Wolfgang Kindl. Even the vocalist Simon Boys, who I didn't like that much before, have gotten a lot better. All the tracks are +13 minutes but they never get boring although their length, not a second. The first track "John Doe Number One" is a progressive masterpiece. Although the debut album was really good it didn't have any clear direction. But "Argot" has a clear direction and everything you could wish for from a progressive rock album. At least the kind of progressive rock I love. Make way for THIEVES KITCHEN on their way to progressive rock stardom.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars It's not truly a NEO prog vein as we know it ... (IMHO)

I got the band's name from a prog mate that said this is an excellent prog band. Combined with good reviews from this website, I purchased the CD of this album couple months ago. At first spin, it did not strike my mind at all as I felt something was not quite right with the music. I thought, it's something common in prog, you might not get "into it" until several times listening to the music. As usual, I kept trying other chances after giving some spins of other CDs with various sub-genres of prog bands: neo prog, prog met, symphonic rock, etc. Then I tried it again with this album for other couple spins, and it still did not impress me. Again, I thought, something was not quite right but I did not know what was it. I could not express exactly what was missing from the album.

I did another chance (reluctantly, actually . cause I don't know, what attracts me to have another spin?) to have another spin of this album. Finally, I could make sense of my decision to spin the CD this morning: I just want to justify whether my decision to purchase this CD was a worthy one or not? Well, it's probably for most of you it's okay to spend a USD 15 for a CD, but in a very developing world like in my country that amount of monies can be used for 10 - 15 times "decent" lunch. So, in any decision to purchase a CD, it must be a justifiable one. That's my view. Of course, it's different with those of you who live in developed nations .. It may have cost you a one lunch only.

OK, back to this CD, having struggled to identify what was "missing" in this record, I finally found something simple that probably it's not common in musical terms. I define it simply as "music density". It sounds confusing? I understand how you feel. It's about how the music of a band fills in the overall composition of their music - is there any empty spot in its music? Basically, it's how many spots (or how much?) available in each passage of music? It does not apply to quieter passage that is required by the composition itself. When I say a quieter passage is the segment by which the composition requires a quiet music to form its overall composition of a song in order to provide variety of emotional impacts destined to make. Be it as it is if it's part of the composition. But, when the music returns into full swing but you still find some spots available, that becomes annoying for our listening pleasure. As for this album, overall, I find that the composition is really lacking music density - it sounds empty or hollow kind of thing. That's one part, there are other parts that I think I should describe as the following track by track review .

John Doe Number One

Duration-wise, it seems like an epic song but there is no such indication that this track is sectioned under some parts - whatsoever. It starts with a semi classical piano sound with some breaks with a keyboard sound. The intro is for me a reminiscent of ELP or Van der Graaf Generator in its simplest form. The repeated chords with some changes into adjacent chords have in a way annoyed me. I feel annoyed especially with a boring piano sound with repeated chords. The music itself is so hollow that leaves many spots / spaces that actually can be filled in with rhythm section or improvised instrument sounds. I thought it's probably the bassline is so dull to my ears (well, sorry for the bassist - I'm just trying to be honest with my experience). On quieter passage where only piano and vocal take part in the music, I don't get any sense of nice-ness about its melody / composition. It turns then to a very weak rhythm with thin (sound-wise) drum beats [approx min 5:55]. What a boring segment this one is!

Another annoying part is when the vocal sings "You don't want to know .." With a very mediocre singing quality. Ugh . it's so annoying man . When the music turns into Emerson like keyboard work, it does not seem to blow any sound of tight composition. In summary, I can only say that the composition lacks music density, weak composition, repeated and not catchy melodies. The structure is very simple but the repetition is really annoying .. I come to realize that people should not misunderstand that prog should necessary require a long duration of composition. This song is too long with a very minimum of variations.


This track starts off with a nice church organ sound continued with classical (and nice) piano work. When the music enters its full sound with a vocal line - it sounds very empty with mediocre instrumentations to fill in the music except Emerson-like keyboard work. Drumming is so boring with limited variations, bassline is only filling in the end of bars, mediocre voice line and strained guitar work. I can not grab the tagline melody of this song. The guitar rhythm is so boring - repeated chords over and over .. I fail to identify the best parts of this track except the intro section. Another weak composition and again .. it lacks music density. The vibes solo seems to make the song sounds better but it fails to help the overall composition. Sorry, that;s what I can say about this track.


The opening part reminds me, again, to ELP. The inclusion of vibes at the intro part is really good! It flows with Emerson-like keyboard work augmented with electric guitar. When vocal enters, it does not sound a great prog music to my ears. It seems to me that the music was "forced to be" prog by making the composition a bit complex, but it's loosen the overall structural integrity of a good prog tune. I can tolerate the guitar solo backed with repeated keyboard chords that serve as rhythm section. But, I got problems with drumming and bassline. They can actually fill many excellent spots between time signatures in nice ways. They sould not play a role as goal keepers, waiting for until other instruments contribute the work. As a result, it's a song that lacks its density.

Call To Whoever

It opens with a symphonic style in neo prog vein. Even though it's characterized by a sort of repetition but it has some variations at the intro part. The music then flows in medium tempo with a combination of guitar and keyboard sounds. A nice opening that lacks the roles of drumming and bass guitar. The music continues with a guitar solo before it enters to vocal. The part that is started with a short solo drum indicates lack of music density also with this track - sometime the music is so empty with bass and drum fill in the music. It's another track that is forced to be prog but it sounds "so and so" to me. It's not something that sounds natural to me ..

My Overall Recommendation

This is the only album that I have of this band but it's enough for me for not adding another CD of the band unless they completely change their music direction or improve their composition. To sum up, I find this album lacks music density, weak composition, not enough variations - even if there is, it's not composed with a smooth transition. I can not catch the "head" and "tail" of the music. Musician-wise: it lacks the role of bass guitar, drum and vocal. After all, that is only based on my humble opinion. I'm sure, you may have other opinions. If you can enjoy this music, I respect it very much. That's the beauty of having different opinion about prog music - we have to be open mind. Therefore, I put this album under two stars category which is for collectors only. You are the final judge whether or not to purchase this album. Keep on Progging .!!!

Progressively yours,

GW - Indonesia.

P.S. : For those of you who can enjoy this album, please do let me know on how to best enjoy it. I mean it, because I want my investment is worth-wile. Thanks!

Review by hdfisch
4 stars Edited 10/4/2005!

The band Thieves' Kitchen is taking a big effort to get away from the typical Neoprog cliché and to play some more original and intricate music and I have to say they managed this quite successful. I did not hear their first album, I only read that it was already quite good as well. On this one here Argot (which has the meaning of a secret language for thieves) there are plenty of odd rhythms and meandering complex lines of keyboards and guitar present. The keyboard sounds are very versatile ranging from piano over organ, strings to brass and typical synths and sounding mostly quite natural. And despite the very high complexity they never exaggerate it to the extreme or in a "pretentious" way at any moment. The songs might be not very "catchy" but they are all the times very much enjoyable and there is always something left to discover even after plenty of spins.

The first track John Doe Number One is starting quite heavily with complex lines of keyboards, guitar and bass and odd rhythms. Later there is a very nice part with electric piano and vocals after 6:00 which is repeated around 14:00. Although being the longest one with over twenty minutes the track never fails at any moment to lose the listener's attraction and fascination.Escape starts in a pastoral vein with nice organ leading over to a mid-tempo piano part with good drum work. Drums by Mark Robotham (previously GREY LADY DOWN) are by the way excellent all over the record. Again the complexity of the melodic lines is just mind blowing and fascinating. In Proximity we hear around 8:00 a very nice soaring part with wordless vocals and guitar. Call To Whoever is a bit less complex track and in some way more in a "normal" Neoprog vein, but very well done, very melodic and nice. But I'll give up trying to describe the music. Although it reminds a bit to Echolyn and as well to some of the "old 70's veterans" it's still quite different and for sure very original and not derivative at all. Much of the guitar soloing has something known from Jazz fusion, so the development they did on their third album is in fact not that much surprising. But this will be another review altogether.

I can only say: This is an excellent addition to any prog collection! 4 well deserved stars!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars They've brought in a new bass player for this their second album. Strangely enough their original bass player guests on this record playing the aboe. Their debut "Head" was more accessible to me, and I still like it a little better than this one.They continue to impress though with their incredible playing abilities. These guys still have a great sense of humour as the lyrics for these four songs are each written in a different foreign language.

"John Doe Number One" is the 20 minute opening track. The highlight of the whole album is the intro for this song with the aboe, piano, organ, guitar and mellotron. The opening 3 minutes of music just kills. It then settles down some as guitar plays tastefully. Solo piano before vocals come in around 5 minutes then mellotron rolls in. The drums / keys melody 6 1/2 minutes in shines. Some more great instrumental work that's fun to really listen to after 13 minutes. A calm before 17 minutes as vocals return, they do get passionate. Spoken words and piano end it.

"Escape" opens with what sounds like church organ. A beat with piano after a minute. Vocals with organ take over 3 minutes in. A change 4 1/2 minutes in as the focus is more on the vocals and drums. Xylophone after 8 minutes.

"Proximity" is my least favourite song on here, it features xylophone almost right away as guitar then organ arrives.Vocals a minute in. Organ is prominant until the guitar takes over that role. The guitar cries out 7 minutes in. Mellotron and aboe 9 1/2 minutes in.Organ and vocals end it.

"Call To Whoever" opens with some excellent guitar,aboe follows with vocals coming in around 2 1/2 minutes. Pulsating synths recall Banks with mellotron before 7 minutes. A cool guitar / organ melody 9 1/2 minutes in. A little heaviness a minute later. A calm with reserved vocals 11 1/2 minutes in. Aboe 14 minutes in and also a minute later as it continues to be pastoral.

I found this to be a tough listen at times, especially when he's singing with not a lot of variation going on. This is impressive though and well worth checking out along with their debut.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars I really wonder why this band is catalogued in the Eclectic genre while almost each review refers (rightly) to Neo-prog while describing the music proposed by ''Thieves Kitchen''.

OK, at times some more complex interplay than usual do appear in their music but globally, the neo style dominates. Sounding as ELP during some parts of the epic opening number (20+ minutes), but with flat, average vocals.

''Argot'' is a Parisian dialect spoken mostly by lower classes some decades ago, and it is quite difficult to grab why they have chosen this as the title of their second album. Anyway.

Like in their debut album, the band is proposing long compositions (ranging between thirteen to twenty minutes) which could have been shorter for a couple of them. This being said, I prefer ''Argot'' to their debut one. Some more complexity is welcome and there are some fine instrumental passages unfortunately mixed with weaker vocal parts. I can best describe their music as a combination of a simplified mix between Crimson and ELP.

Not too bad at all, but without too much originality either. Pleasant neo-prog but no more. Three stars for their efforts in adding some more subtlety at times. But by no means a masterpiece.

To be sure of this, you only need to listen to ''Proximity'': the weakest number from this album shows the limitations of the band in terms of song writing and (lack of) inventiveness. This track sounds pompous and uninspired. Cloning ''Yes'' and ELP. But I would rather suggest to listen to the genuine ones instead.

The last track is heavier but with the same sources of inspiration. Three stars for this album.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars First of all I will quote from dictionary explanation of the term Arogot, what means :

"ARGOT is dialect or term used by various groups?including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals?to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. "

With this second album named Argot , the UK quintet Thieve's Kitchen hit the market in 2001. To tell the truth I know about this band for , I don't know for sure I guess 4-5 yesrs, and fully discovered them , only last year, when I got two CD of theirs, Argor and the next one. The band formed around the excellent drumer Mark Robotham from defunct Lady Grey Down, trying to sound diffrent then the former band, he succeded, or they succed less or more, IMO. While the music is quite complex, quirky in places, with lots of instrumental passages, to my ears this is not neo prog, eclectic fits very well. So a white ball for the drumer who is the main composer of Thieve's Kitchen, because he didn't wont to copy himself again in this band to what he done in Lady Grey Down, good thing. Second , the music is much more elaborated and got in places some even symphonic moments with lots of twists, melodic but also very hard to digest, at least for me. The music is something between Echolyn, Yes, Mostly Autumn. The vocalist for ex - Simon Boys - is an aquaring taste for me, it took me more then 5-6 listenings to get used with his voice, not bad , but to I don't how to explain to safe, to laid down in tone. The album has only 4 pieces, who can easely can be called epics, all of them above 13 min, with one over 20 min in lenghth, are all good, nothing really impressive if you ask me, but pleasent most of the time for sure, anyway I prefere Grey Lady Down's music much more. So I will give 3 stars for sure, another good example of complex and in same time good progressive music coming from UK, but I doubt it that with this album they will hit the buig time, it's only a matter of time maybe. Good but non essential to me.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Thieves' Kitchen's Argot is a fascinating album which manages to overcome rather threadbare production standards (the drum sound is particularly poor in places) in order to present an intriguing and highly original prog sound. Though many of the tones and textures draw from the neo-prog playbook, the song structures and atmospheres the band play with are sufficiently removed from the likes of Pendragon, IQ and Marillion that they seem to be off in their own sonic universe, creating unusually complex and intricate compositions which require repeated careful listens before they yield their secrets. "Argot" is a term for a secret language spoken by thieves, and certainly Thieves' Kitchen are rewriting the prog dictionary here, though I find the vocal sections to be a little weak, tending to be a little dissonant - and worse, dissonant in a way where I genuinely can't tell whether they are supposed to be that way or whether it's just an accident.
Review by kev rowland
3 stars I met Mark Robotham a few weeks ago and he told me how well this was selling, a fact also confirmed by Malcolm Parker at GFT. I was determined to give this a good hearing so I waited until I was in the car for a long drive and put it on. There are only four songs, but the album is over an hour in length, and they have decided to print the lyrics, but each song in a different language! (My good mate Artur Chachlowski provided the translation for "Escape").

"John Doe Number One" kicks off the album, and at twenty minutes plus I settled in to be impressed. You can tell that there is a 'but' coming, can't you. It's not my fault. I really wanted to like this album, I was determined to do so, but it cannot be my type of prog. I found that my attention kept wandering. Passages that should have gripped my attention just didn't. I know that there are going to be some who feel that this is a wonderful album, bringing together bands as diverse as King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Genesis, but it just didn't do anything for me.

Originally appeared in Feedback #63, July 01

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Immediately after the release of ''Head'' Thieve's Kitchen were about to compose new material for a second album.Midway through this decision though Paul Beecham was somewhat forced to quit due to family commitments.The band welcome new bassist Andy Bonham, who came up with the idea of providing some fretless bass lines into the sound.Recordings started in January 2001, Beecham was not totally absent, adding some woodwind lines into the material, and two months later ''Argot'' was set for release.As with the first album, this one was independently launched by the band.

A longer album but a reduced number of tracks meant that Thieve's Kitchen were quite ambitious to deliver epic compositions all the way through, none of the four cuts clocked at less than 13 minutes!The music is on par with the first album, basically an affair between Neo/Symphonic Prog and different echoes coming from Jazz and even Canterbury Fusion.They did this though by offering a strong amount of powerful keyboards, including synths, organ and Mellotron, often in duplicate deliveries, and some really serious guitar work by Mercy, which draws influences from both the classic Prog heroes (STEVE HOWE, STEVE HACKETT) and jazzier executors (ALAN HOLDSWORTH, TONY SPADA).The arrangements are trully complex and often chaotic with endless time signatures, tempo variations and a huge atmospheric variety, passing from Classic 70's Prog and Fusion to modern Neo Prog with comfort.They remind me a bit of MR. SIRIUS, although in a rather more complex approach, swirling around symphonic and light jazzy elements, but prooving to be fairly consistent throughout the whole album.First and last track are the best in my opinion, very good Sympho Prog with Fusion and Canterbury orientations and loads of vintage keyboards, the other two pieces are more into Neo/Symphonic Prog with some dreamy climates, but also captivating and demanding instrumental exercises.

File next to Germans ARGOS and compatriots THE TANGENT.Simon Boys' voice maybe leads to more Neo-styled paths, but the music is far more than this, featuring some tremendous jazzy torturing among the standard symphonic echoes.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Now, i havent heard THIEVES KITCHEN´s first album:"Head".... but the word is.. that they are really the thing to notice in the future!! However, i now am the proud owner of :"Argot" their next outlet (thanx to my dear mate LEO)... and i can truthfully say that this is by far the most extremely talen ... (read more)

Report this review (#17639) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Thursday, April 15, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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