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Tiles Fence The Clear album cover
3.67 | 81 ratings | 9 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Patterns (4:31)
2. Beneath The Surface (5:00)
3. Cactus Valley (6:58)
4. Another's Hand (6:32)
5. The Wading Pool (6:24)
6. Gameshow (3:40)
7. Fallen Pieces (1:25)
8. Changing The Guard (7:18)
9. Gabby's Happy Song (0:50)
10. Checkerboards (14:43)
Bonus tracks Japanese release:
11. Splinters Of Truth (0:50)
12. No Failure (5:38)

Total Time: 57:21

Bonus tracks on 2004 remaster:
11. Splinters Of Truth (0:50)
12. No Failure (Demo) (5:38)
13. Ballad Of The Sacred Cows (Demo) (6:58)
14. Opportunity (5:56)

Line-up / Musicians

- Paul Rarick / vocals
- Chris Herin / guitar, mandolin, keyboards
- Jeff Whittle / bass, backing vocals
- Mark Evans / drums, percussion

- Kevin Chown / bass (8), co-producer

Releases information

CD Standing Pavement Recordings ‎- SPR97001 (1997, US)
CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 157 (2004, Europe) Remastered with 4 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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TILES Fence The Clear ratings distribution

(81 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (37%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

TILES Fence The Clear reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
5 stars TILES are Mark Evans on Drums and Percussion, Chris Herin on Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Mandolin and keyboards, Paul Rarick on Lead & Backing Vocals and Jeff Whittle on Bass Guitar. They are all talented musicians. Paul Rarick is a powerful singer, Chris Herin a splendid guitarist, Jeff Whittle a skillful bassist and Mark Evans a competent drummer. TILES are playing tight progressive hard rock / Prog Metal in the same vein as RUSH, DREAM THEATER, QUEENSRYCHE, LEGER DE MAIN and YES. This is their second CD and it's technically amazing and complex, with mood shifts and odd tempo changes. It also got a very good and clean production. Here you can find fine tunes such as "Patterns" with its jazzy intro and YES influenced riffs, "Beneath The Surface" is a good rock song, "Cactus Valley", "Another Hand" with its marvelous instrumental passage, acoustic guitar based ballad "The Wading Pool", "Gameshow", the instrumental classically inspired "Falling Pieces" that is played on a moog synth, the symphonic "Changing The Guard", the instrumental acoustic "Gabby's Happy Song" and the 15-minute progressive masterpiece "Checkerboards" with its many time changes that is closing the album. This is a record for all fans of DREAM THEATER and RUSH, and a milestone in progressive rock. An extra + for the great cover and the 12 page CD booklet. I recommend you to buy this album right away.
Review by Menswear
4 stars They've decided to go underdogs.

Althought they're not the new Rush, far from that, Tiles is an obscure band without too much ambition. They do what they do, and that's pretty much it. I don't really feel that the band is targeting the sky here. They had a craving for Rush, many songs were obviously inspired by their time change signature and bass/drum interplay. Many songs are really good, but an aftertaste of lazyness is in the back of my mouth.

They have enough talent to stand on their own, but once again, I do feel like listening to college rock (Dinosaur Jr, The Breeders, Mathew Sweet). Tiles could be the band that only one guy at school knows about, and he plays it on the college radio making kids wonder: 'Dude, this sounds kinda like Permanent Waves..." Unfortunetaly, we don't hear as much Rush as I expected, at least in this album. Much like Enchant, the guitar and drums are inspired by the canadian trio, but the songs are standing on their own legs. No cloning here.

The songs are short and kinda catchy for many. The vocals are high perched in the air (like Lee), the bass is rolling easily and the guitar is Lifeson influenced as well as the drums recalling the toms rolls of the Professor. When TIles hits the spot, they're really getting you into their world.

Patience and giving the band a chance is the key. It's not an album, nor a band, that lets everybody come in as they want. Sometimes recalls Permanent Waves or Hemispheres.

The hidden basement of progressive rock.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars TILES took their name from the LED ZEPPELIN song "Out On The Tiles", but they have more in common with RUSH (instrumentally) and QUEENSRYCHE (intelligent lyrics) as far as i'm concerned. Hey you can't go wrong with this album or the follow-up "Presents Of Mind", both were mixed by Terry Brown. This is their second album and in my opinion this one is a huge improvement over the debut. In the liner notes they mention that the songs on this album were really auditioned for 2 years in front of live audiences and changed until they felt they were right. When they recorded this album they wanted it to have that live feel and they did little in the way of overdubs.

"Patterns" opens with a jazzy flavour before the guitar comes in and changes that. Such a great sound here. Nice guitar 3 minutes in. "Beneath The Surface" is a melodic and uplifting tune. Excellent finish to this one. These two opening tracks both have their RUSH moments. "Cactus Valley" opens with some atmosphere but it certainly has it's heavy passages with some excellent bass and guitar. "Another's Hand" is an uptempo track that brings early FATES WARNING to mind as the guitar grinds away. Check out the drumming 2 minutes in and the bass lines that follow.

"The Wading Pool" is an anti-war ballad with some great acoustic guitar. "Gameshow" is a favourite of mine. I like the witty lyrics and RUSH-like instrumental passages. Nice and heavy when it slows down too. "Changing The Guard" is another highlight, I like the arrangments the way it gets intense for a while then it releases, then intense and...well you get the picture. Kevin Chown (MAGNITUDE NINE) guests on bass. He also co-produced this album by the way. "Checkerboards" rocks ! Guitar riffs and solos, an almost 15 minute epic. I like the contrasts on this one.

I don't usually comment on bonus tracks but the four on the edition I have are so amazing. Very impressive release and a co-favourite with their next one "Presents Of Mind". I love this style of music !

Review by progrules
4 stars After having listened to four albums by Tiles I think I can safely say this one Fence the Clear is their strongest effort so far. And obviously, looking at the rating averages I'm not the only one who believes this. This was my first album by this band and after a few listenings some 10 years ago I was blown away by this jewel. I thought it sounded very original, all the songs are taking surprising twists and turns. It impressed me then and it still does. After having heard their other three releases Iīm surprised they did an album like this in between because the other three seem pretty straightforward to me, no surprises there within the songs. The other three have also more similarity to Rush but I cannot really say this in the case of Fence the Clear.

First 2 songs on the album are fairly `normal` not really that special or surprising (3,5 st.) but with Cactus Valley we are entering the mysterious side of Tiles especially in the beginning of the song. The rest of the song is also quite out of the ordinary. Great rhythm and build up of the composition, these are the elements that strike me here. Great song, 4 stars. Next is Anotherīs Hand is another with special build up, great instrumental part in the middle with all kinds of musical specialties. Terrific track, 4,25 stars. The Wading Pool is more quiet, almost a ballad but also here you wonder where these guys got their inspiration from when they wrote it. Unbelievable stuff, 4 stars. Gameshow is more like the first two songs, good song but not exceptional, 3,5 stars. Fallen Pieces is a nice, short keyboard instrumental. 3,25 stars. Changing the Guard is another highlight, after the closing epic the best to me. Strength of this track is the composition. Wonderful song with interesting guitar variation. Itīs a pretty slow song but in a nice way. Truly awesome. 4,25 stars. After another short one the mentioned epic closes the album. After this treat so far the icing on the cake ! A fantastic epic with a terrific instrumental passage in the middle. 4,5 stars.

I even want to go a bit further with my first statement and believe this is their magnum opus that will not be surpassed in the future. But who knows Tiles will prove me wrong. The current average for this album (4,2 stars) is a good reflection for what itīs worth.

Review by b_olariu
4 stars Second release by this american band from 1997. Wow, they know to use the instruments and release a timless album in my opinion, every track is mindblowing, great instrumental passages, intelligent lyrics. This one along with the next one Presents of Mind from 1999 are the best albums band ever made, and why not among the best from the '90's. Not much to add just if you want something that Rush maybe never released in the'90's, fresh and very well played check this band , they kick ass. First 4 pieces are the best from here. recommended among the best bands in the last 15 years, but with all that kinda underrated, and for sure needs attention. 4 stars without hesitation
Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Clearing the Fence

With their play on words turning success (as a horse would clear a fence) into futility (a fencer wasting his energy on an invisible opponent) Tiles hit a niche and actually gained a considerable amount of success themselves. This album shows them after two years of live rehearsal and refining time with their material that would eventually make it's way onto this album, and having trimmed the fat it makes for a strong presentation. While this would not be Tiles' only well recieved album by all it certainly is their best received album in their career thus far, and for good reasons. The playing is sharp, the mix is full (thanks to Rush and Max Webster producer Terry Brown) and the songs all seem to fit with considerable emotion and power backing each one. In the world of Heavy Prog, these guys really know what they're doing.

Of course, one of the biggest fences these guys had to clear was their comparisons to Rush. That's not an easy band to be called The Next..., but Tiles manages to gracefully separate themselves from the prog legends while still maintaining a style that fans of Rush will enjoy. The band's style is really rooted in 90 alternative heavy rock (but not grudge) with a splash of progressive leanings, Rush-like instrumentation at times and a Dream Theater-esque vocalist (who doesn't sound enough like James LaBrie to become distracting, mind you). Most of the songs are played at blinding speed while others back off for a moment to deliver a slow number. Others still are set at a good mid-pace (where the band seems to excel) with incredibly strong vocals to make for a very emotive delivery such as the powerful Beneath the Surface. Most of the songs sit around mid-length (5-7 minutes) with a couple of shorter and one longer exception, the mighty epic which ends the album, Checkerboards.

As stated before, these guys are at their best in the mid-length songs. Following up one of the standout songs (Beneath The Surface) we have the next great song, Cactus Valley, it's chugging riff and high vocals make for an excellent mix along with some very strong guitars that simply blister. Gameshow is another that follows this method, this one a lot more cynical in tone and a touch faster.

All in all a great album if you want to hear some excellent guitar and prog tuned to be contemporary in the mid 90s. Kind of like a lighter version of Dream Theater meets Counterparts era Rush. If any of these thing appeal to you then Tiles is a must. Heavy Prog fans in general should find a lot to like about this band, and they're great at what they do, especially on this album. Bonus tracks on the InsideOut Special edition include some of the offcuts from the album, and actually add to the package on the whole, unlike some other bonus tracks on other albums. Each song is quite strong and includes one heavy, 7 minute instrumental. Anyways, bonus tracks or not this is an excellent album. 4 checkerboards out of 5, highly recommended!

Review by Prog Leviathan
2 stars An interesting case of how a band can have so many of the right components for excellence but still fall short because of a lack of emotion in delivery. "Fence the Clear" is a finely tuned machine which sounds, and very much wants to be, interesting, yet ultimately leaves a hollow impression on the listener.

First, it's important to note the good stuff this album has going for it, and foremost among these traits are its excellent musicianship. The instrumental players are first rate, jumping through and between tempo, melodic, and dynamic hoops with ease. "Fence the Clear's" sound is heavy, generally up-tempo, and aggressive in its delivery, and the group comes ready to play. Although guitar-led, the rhythm section stands out as a dynamic and catchy force, performing with complexity and energy. Herin's guitar is a good example of where things fall short though; while technically outstanding, it is bland and emotionless. I'd compare him to Alex Lifeson or Alan Morse, but without either of those player's effortless style and emotion. The result is a boring metalish roar that does little do enamor itself to the ear, despite the dexterity demonstrated. The acoustic sections are even worse, the lack of emotion in the quite moments really showing itself.

This leads to "Fence the Clear's" songwriting, which, while also quite good, makes almost no impact because the performances are sterile, over-produced, and noisy. The melodic hooks come and go without grazing the skin, and the band's ambitious time changes feel contrived and poorly integrated. For example, the extended piece "Jigsaw" really just sounds like 4 other songs crammed together; there are no recurring themes or cohesiveness, just lots of flashy playing. At its peak the group is on par with early Dream Theater (which I think isn't half bad!), but again, these songs are really just a jumble of notes lacking direction.

The biggest strike is the rather bad vocals of Paul Rarick. His high pitched, plodding, inflectionless sustains forced me to turn off "Fence the Clear" early on in my first listen, and even after objective attempts they remain very unappealing. Poorly produced, unambitious, and crammed with dense verbage (either preachy or obvious), they are rotten to the core. "Fence the Clear" is at its enjoyable best when he shuts up and lets the band let loose, which occurs precious few times.

All in all, a dissapiontment. Don't be lured in by comparrisons to other bands; Tiles shows that it takes more than technical pizzaz to be a great band.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 1 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Review by JLocke
3 stars I see nothing wrong with taking heavy influences from past greats, but what I do and will always take issue with is when perfectly capable musicians seem to dive into the old territory, then simply stand still, without trying anything new within the space of their genre.

So it is with Tiles' Fence The Clear, whose nifty album cover and low price tag led me to pick it up in the store after I had been previously intrigued by the band on this site. I have no idea if the band as a whole has done better or worse work outside of this release, so I cannot base my rating on those factors. All I can do here is rate the album on its own merits, not on the band's overall capability. I came across two records by this band in a used bin of my local Suncoast/FYE, and had money to burn, so I bought one of them (mustn't buy two of something from the same artist when you have never heard them before). I chose this one because as I recalled, it had quite high marks on here, was fairly early on in the band's career, and the album artwork is just gorgeous.

When reading the album's liner notes, I became even more intrigued. I read about the story behind the album title, the symbolism of the cover visual, and how the band spent a long time working out the music for the record. They spoke of experimentation, clean, live takes in the studio with very little overdubs, and how the music was tried out for live audiences and perfected over time before the album was recorded. Taking in all of this knowledge, I was gearing up for quite the inventive listening experience. What I got instead was a slightly above-par Rush clone with some modern trappings thrown in now and again. Hardly the earth- shattering event the band seemed to think it was.

As I said before, being influenced by a single band of a previous generation isn't bad in and of itself (although I honestly can't wrap my head around the concept, myself). It's what you do with that influence that shows how good of a songwriter you are, how capable you are with the material, and whether or not you're able to transcend conformity and make something new and fresh with old ingredients. Don't laugh and suggest such a thing isn't even possible, because it's been one before. For all their cheese, Spock's Beard makes damn good music, and they take obvious influences from only a handful of past bands. But they succeed in creating something more substantial and less contrived than most in the same boat. Bands such as Tiles seem to always hit a brick wall at some point and come to the realization that they aren't able to go much further than what their inspiration already did twenty years ago or more. But rather than take that as a challenge and rise to it by either starting from scratch or reinventing themselves, they simply accept the fact that they aren't original or inspired in the slightest, and they go through with it anyway. Is that a lack of motivation, or is that simply not caring?

Perhaps music such as this simply can't progress any further, but if that is indeed the case, modern bands need to stop mining it for inspiration and move on to another musical frontier. There is plenty of ground still seldom covered, yet these types of modern artists always seem to head for the same exact spot. It's like a buddy told them about a super-cool place for finding gold, but by the time they get there, everybody else's buddy has told them the same thing, and nothing is left. When the stream runs empty, move on, don't hang around and hope for the best. That is, unfortunately, what I felt has happened with this music most of the time I was listening to it. That isn't to say that there aren't things to enjoy, here, but I'm simply warning you: do not go into this record expecting anything terribly original as I did, or else you'll find yourself more than a little wrought with disappointment.

Okay, so I've talked about the album's weaknesses: lack of originality. Okay, fine. But that's something that becomes more and more common all the time, so should I really give this release such a hard time over it? Perhaps not, but it's my personal opinion being shared, here. Many will disagree with me on many things I say. I write reviews to simply help my like-minded music enthusiasts steer clear of the bland or the unnecessary. I consider this album to be both, however, I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's not completely worth your time. Just tread carefully when you venture into its territory. The album does have strengths to counter the weaknesses, but I just don't personally think it is strong enough to give the album anything above an average score. The strength would be the music itself, of course. Sure, it's hardly original, but it's well-played, well-produced, and sometimes a lot of fun to listen to. Will I be playing it on a regular basis when there are so many better albums in my ever-expanding collection? Well, no. But I certainly plan on breaking it out now and again when I just want to have some cheesy prog fun.

The musicians are very good, the songwriting is above par, but the originality and artistry is lacking. Good for what it is, but nothing you haven't heard before. Believe or not, however, I came out of this with high hopes for this band. I think I will pick up one of their later releases before closing my book on them. After all, the talent and ability is clearly there, and it takes time for musicians to find themselves, especially in an area as wide open and varied as Progressive Rock. No, I think Tiles might still hit the right mark in releases to come. But we'll see.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Tiles' debut did make some noise to a scene, that was about to get back healthier than ever.So, only positive things were about to follow, starting from 1997, when the American quartet recorded the sophomore effort ''Fence the clear''.It was again released (in April) on Standing Pavement Recordings for the US market, but a few months later the same work was launched in Europe by Inside Out.Additionally the Rush comparisons became even tighter, as long-time Rush producer Terry Brown helped the band during the final stage of mixing.

Stylistically not much has changed, the band secured a raw, guitar-based Progressive Rock with complex plays and sharp riffs throughout, but the compositions now sound more mature, consistent and inspiring.''Fence the clear'' is a fine example of lyrical Prog Rock in the vein of RUSH, which doesn't lack some very good melodies and a certain technical depth.The music sounds a bit raw due to the absence of any keyboard support, but at the same time it's also a pretty polished attempt, as the guys had found a good balance between heavy riffs, furious rhythms, unexpected and surprising moves and instant melodies, throwing in a few lighter parts between the Power Rock, RUSH-inspired textures.The solos are very good, the groovy themes are extremely enjoyable and Paul Rarick's singing is expressive and clean.Propably the Rock equivalent to Prog Metal legends QUEENSRYCHE, they shared the same taste for technical accomplishment, epic lyricism and dynamic, guitar-led fests.On the other hand I find the length of the album to be quite extended for such a style, sometimes less is more, as not all tracks are trully great.But you can't help but listening over and over to one of the greatest anthems of guitar Prog, ''Another's hand'', an orgasm of sudden twists and turns, frenetic rhythms, jazzy drumming and high-pitched singing, perfect track.

From dedicated fans of Rush for dedicated fans of Rush.This is passionate Heavy/Power Rock with complex ideas, some great jazzy pinches and epic-styled, convincing vocals.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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