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The Tea Club

Crossover Prog

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The Tea Club If / When album cover
3.90 | 197 ratings | 6 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2019

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Way You Call (2:39)
2. Say Yes (4:12)
3. If I Mean When (4:21)
4. Rivermen (6:35)
5. Came at a Loss (4:19)
6. Sinking Ship (3:17)
7. Creature (27:45)

Total Time 53:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Patrick McGowan / guitar, mandolin, vocals
- Daniel McGowan / guitar, vocals
- Joe Dorsey / keyboards
- Jamie Wolff / bass, violin, cello
- Dan Monda / drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Kendra McGowan (DeSimone)

CD Self-released (2019, US)

Digital album (July 30, 2019)

Thanks to javajeff for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy THE TEA CLUB If / When Music

THE TEA CLUB If / When ratings distribution

(197 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (12%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

THE TEA CLUB If / When reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Kempokid
5 stars The Tea Club is a band I consider to be some of the peak of modern prog rock, making use of subtletly and space within their music in order to make refined, yet still complex songs without ever giving into the excess that most of prog tends to fall into. In a sense they're the antithesis to another one of my favourite modern prog bands, Thank You Scientist, which display the opposite end of the scale, revelling in the frenetic technicality that much of the genre is known for. With all this said, If / When manages to surpass not only every other album this year so far (a phrase that I've said countless times, but still), but is also easily my pick for the best album this band has put out thus far. I mentioned back in my review of the album Quickly Quickly Quickly that while the album was extremely mature, nuanced and all around incredible, that I still felt as if the full potential of the band hadn't been met, despite loving how beautiful each track was being mixed in with hints of heavier, more complex material, evident in I Shall Consume Everything. The direction they then took on Grappling, in which they highlighted the more complex side of the band through the majority of it made me question the direction the band would go on from there, as while it was a superb album, it also didn't feel like the masterpiece I had expected, unlike this. What If / When does that makes it the amazing album that it is, is the way that it hones in on those softer, more atmospheric moments on previous works, and then expands upon them, taking a core aspect of their identity even further by fully realising how much potential they had in creating such sweet melodies mixed in with the aspects of technicality and exploration that prog is known for.

After a number of months without listening to anything by this band, The Way You Call immediately reminded me of one of the defining aspects of the core sound, and why it's so good, the vocals. The delicate delivery of Patrick and Daniel Mcgowan are a central element of why the band is so great in my eyes, easily some of the best prog rock vocalists in my opinion. This track also demonstrates this increased focus on the softer elements of the music, being entirely acoustic without any sign of percussion or anything of the like, just a guitar and vocalist creating some absolutely beautiful melodies. Say Yes is a much more upbeat track, also displaying a somewhat more alternative rock edge that is brought out with the guitar tone. Despite being a very approachable song, it moves from riff to riff at a breakneck pace, extremely uplifting and energetic all around, the production being extremely clean in a way where everything is distinctive and noticeable, yet not clinical in nature, creating a lush atmosphere. The use of keyboards is also of note, as while there is a general presence of it in the background in order to fill out the sound some more, it's used sparingly throughout in order to further heighten the power and energy present, demonstrating this grasp that the band has on effective use of each instrument, even a short, accessible song such as this containing layers upon layers of nuance and complexity to pick apart. If I Mean When is a more straightforward song that hinges on an incredible vocal melody, a slight echo present making everything sound downright breathtaking, the soft bassline, the vocal harmonies, the subtle additional touches of the keyboard, just everything about this song is nothing short of perfection.

Rivermen is one of the best songs on this album filled with absolute masterpieces, starting off extremely softly, seemingly similar in style to Mister Freeze, taking on a much more low key approach to provide an eerie atmosphere. I wasn't expecting the gradual increase in volume and uneasy atmosphere to culminate in such an intense climax. An electronic beat is introduced about halfway through as the drums pick up speed, an electric guitar riff slowly comes in before everything explodes, wailing guitar solos over fast paced, complex drumming, the powerful vocals solifidying the absolutely incredible performance, all making for the heaviest song in the band's discography, and one of the greatest. Came At A Loss, as expected, is great, a much more simplistic song once again, much of the appeal coming from the beautiful vocal melodies, especially of the chorus, accentuated by the incredible vocal harmonies. Sinking Ship is another pretty song, although somewhat less remarkable than everything else on here, the melodies not hitting quite as hard, although the blissful tone of it is lovely.

When going into this album, I was intrigued about the 28 minute epic at the end, Creature, as Firebears demonstrated a talent for creating long stretches of music that are amazingly explorative, making full use of the entire length and warranting being so long, something which I can confirm happens again with this one. It begins slowly, switching between vocals and acoustic guitar solos regularly, each return of the vocals bringing in slightly more depth to the instrumentals, before the bass comes in and changes up the entire melody, which turns out being short lived, as this intro melody returns immediately, this time with more focus on the percussion while everything else ens up fading out. The bass eventually comes back in and this is where the song really starts to get going, the pace now remaining faster, great interplay between the keyboard and bass being demonstrated. The song eventually fades to near ambience, the acoustic guitar picking combined with the droning electronics evoking imagery of a cave, drops of water falling from the ceiling down into puddles, while the listener is sitting down in this tranquility, completely at peace. This right here demonstrates some great experimentation and was something I did not expect to hear in what so far was a fairly traditionally proggy album in many respects. This develops into a much heavier part that has a classic rock feel to it, also being surprisingly heavy while reminding me of The Flower Kings' Don't Let The Devil in, but even more intense and amazing. This is an incredibly dense, noisy section, everything sounding distorted and fuzzy, difficult to keep track of, perfectly juxtaposing the crystal clear sound of all that came before, heightening the impact this section has. This surprise was further increased once the band went full prog metal, the fuzzy guitar solo reminding me strongly of Dream Theater, all around being something I never expected to hear in the band's core sound, but nonetheless welcome given how much it elevated what was already a promising song. I also love the use of leitmotif that the song takes on from this point forward, melodies from If I Mean When being especially prominent. The rest of the song gradually loses a lot of intensity in lieu of more understated melodies, more use of acoustic instruments being especially effective after the intensity previously displayed. To bring everything to a close, the album ends in a cyclical way, the last minute being a reprise of The Way You Call, acting perfectly as a way to close the album off. This is honestly one of the better full blown prog epics I've had the pleasure of listening to, showing experimentation without it ever getting in the way of the song's enjoyability, while also displaying the absolute peak of talent from each band member.

Overall, any expectations I had going into this album were entirely surpassed, showing the band at their most beautiful and most intense. The lovely melodies manage to be sweet and pleasant without sounding saccharine in the process, and everything within is composed to be full of detail without it being too overt. While Quickly Quickly Quickly left me with a feeling that the band still seemed as if it was just the beginning, this one has honestly blown me away to such an extent that I'm questioning how the band would go further up than from here. That's not to say that I believe this is the peak of the band, as they haven't shown any signs of slowing down since their debut, even if I did only start loving them from QQQ onwards, there was still a constant progression. I can see the band from here, even if not making something better than this, at least hitting it extremely close, and am already incredibly interested to see where the band will go from here. I know I've said this many times already, but I feel like this is it, the best album of 2019, and I'm confident enough in its greatness that it will stay there for me.

Best tracks: If I Mean When, Rivermen, Creature

Weakest tracks: Sinking Ship

Verdict: The fact that even after releasing 2 great albums (Rabbit and Grappling) and 2 outright masterpieces, The Tea Club still haven't garnered much attention is somewhat unfortunate, as they deserve so much more. I highly recommend this album to more or less anyone who's a fan of beauty in music, as it is an absolute masterpiece front to back, and will likely not stop being the greatest album of 2019 for me, despite how many other amazing works have also come out so far.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars I resisted giving my full attention to this new release for a while despite my immediate liking of the first song I heard because the "Tea Club sound" had gotten a little old, worn, and predictable for me. Don't get me wrong: the McGowan boys are incredible song crafters and never fail to put out excellent, cogent, and relevant albums, it's just that I'm not a lyrics/message guy; I'm a music/feel guy and the music just started sounding stale, too drawn out, too repetitive. (I've been a fan and collector/follower since 2010's most excellent release, Rabbit.) I am pleased to report that with If / When The Tea Club has revealed a refreshing new side.

1. "The Way You Call" (2:39) an all-acoustic guitar supported vocal by Patrick McGowan that I really like--a very refreshing sound for this band--one that I'd love to hear more of. Every sound, every melody line is new and not stereotypic "Tea Club"--which has been a problem for me in successive releases: the sameness/familiarity of sounds and melodic choices. (9/10)

2. "Say Yes" (4:12) travels a bit into "old" territory, though with much better edges and quicker, cleaner transitions. The instrumental performances are so tight and concise! (8.5/10)

3. "If I Mean When" (4:21) opens with distant guitar & mandolin soon joined, in the right channel, by a distant reverbed voice. Nice chords and harmonies. The voice moves front and center and looses its reverb at the end of the first minute before moving into a gorgeous chorus. Great definition of all voices and instruments. I love this more-acoustic side to The Tea Club! (9.5/10)

4. "Rivermen (6:35) opening rather quietly, with a smooth, though ominously restrained spaciousness, the song slowly, patiently develops, grows, reveals, until, in the final third of the song when all of the latent mischief and mayhem is unleashed in an explosion of amazingly raw power and emotion. Now this is a true gem of progressive rock--displaying all of the song-craft that denotes master storytelling through music. One of the best prog songs of 2019! (10/10)

5. "Came At A Loss (4:19) another interesting song for its refreshing newness in sound and style--almost like a smart, quirky sea shanty from SEAS OF MIRTH, SOUL ENEMA, or KNIFEWORLD. It's comprised of more wonderful acoustic guitar founded music over which Patrick sings in his usual way, but the early-DOOBIE BROTHERS-like multi- voice chorus is amazing--melody, harmonies, and engineering of vocal layers. There is simply not enough people making music like this today. (9/10)

6. "Sinking Ship (3:17) kind of a DECEMBERISTS or JACK O' THE CLOCK sound to this one. Pretty, but rather sedate and innocuous. Not a bad song just not a great one. (8.25/10)

7. "Creature (27:45) The greater reliance on acoustic instrumentation continues over the first five minutes. Very fine sound, chord construction, and sound clarity, I just find Patrick's lead vocal style and choice of melodies and intonation to be too familiar. (8/10)

The chorus at the end of the fifth minute is among the finest moments the band have ever produced--on a par to the great sound and vocal constructs of Texas Prog Folk band MIDLAKE and among the best moments of any prog band ever. This section is followed by an extended dream-like interlude of spaciousness filled by guitar harmonics and some really cool synthesizer washes and heavily reverbed vocalise work. (5/5)

At 8:50 we move into a different section--a kind of STEVEN WILSON transition and full-frontal retro-prog-pop assault. Cool effected vocal over heavier organ-based prog section ensues. Cool 80s synth work beneath the powerful "like a wounded animal" vocals. (5/5)

Pure progginess in the complex KING CRIMSON-influenced eleventh and twelfth minutes. Another Crimsonian shift at 11:38, very dense and complex, bouncing back and forth between two or three themes, before a STEVE HOWE-like slide guitar solo leads us into some YES "Gates of Delirium" territory. (9.5/10)

At 13:30 things slow down to a gentle waterfall feel within which some acoustic guitar, electric bass, and almost classical piano support the McGowan vocals. This moves for a brief section into a beautiful rock ballad-like section at 15:25 until a AL STEWART-like sound takes over in the seventeenth minute. Man I love Patrick McGowan's forays into vocalise! (5/5)

Mandolin, spacey synth, muted electric guitar, drums & bass support this awesome PINK FLOYD "Wish You Were Here, Parts VI-IX"-like section. So tastefully done! (5/5)

At the end of the nineteenth minute the music kicks into a full-on rock construct over which an electric guitar sings out with an awesome solo, followed by a similar synth solo and then some vocalise. Beautiful! (5/5)

At 22:00 everything stops leaving the soft syncopated strums of two guitars and some very heavily chorused electric piano to support a gentle vocal. By 23:25 the music has amped up again, recapitulating the wonderful MIDLAKE section, though the acoustic base and slow pace remain as multiple voices sing the band's penultimate message, "All your creatures long for the new creation, Where boundaries of death are ever failing." There is a synthesizer's recapitulation of this lyric's melody in the 26th minute before there is a subtle, gentle, gradual transition to a solo acoustic guitar playing. (5/5)

Patrick McGowan sings the final verse and chorus--familiar to us from the earlier part of the song--all accompanied alone by his acoustic guitar. It's so Cat Stevens like! And wonderful! (4.5/5)

I have to say, that listening to this song transpires into one of the fastest 28 minutes I've ever passed! These guys get how to make a prog epic! And this is definitely one of the best if not the best prog epic of 2019! (52/55)

Total time 53:08

While the first half of this album is less proggy and has a more 1970s classic acoustic/southern rock feel to it, it works. Then there is the epic. Need I say more?

Five stars; a refreshing and undeniable masterpiece of progressive rock music. Well done, TEA CLUB!

Review by kev rowland
4 stars The Tea Club are a New Jersey-based progressive rock band, fronted by the songwriting team of brothers Patrick and Dan McGowan, who provide vocals and guitars (often in unusual tunings). The line-up is completed by Joe Dorsey (keyboards), Jamie Wolff (bass, violin, cello) and Dan Monda (drums, percussion). Having a quick look at the album page on PA I was surprised to see that all five visible reviews have given this album five *'s, something I don't think I have ever seen in the fifteen years I have been involved with the site. There is obviously something about this quirky, melodic, harmonic laid-back sound which resonates with people, so it is somewhat surprising they aren't more well- known. I only came across the album because I was asked by a friend if I had heard of them, yet this is a very polished act indeed.

There is a lot going on, with plenty of rhythms and counter rhythms in the background, while the vocals sweetly move into falsetto when the time is right, and there are plenty of lush harmonies. Guitar can often be acoustic, and there is even mandolin to be heard as well and the result is a crossover prog album which also contains plenty of folk as well. The only real issue for me is that the music all follows similar trends, and there just isn't enough variety for me. I enjoy this style, but in moderation, and I would have preferred more variety within their psychedelic indie pop prog musings. That being said, it is still one heck of an album and why I can't rave over it to the extreme of others, it is still certainly worth investigating for those who enjoy their prog to be somewhat lighter and less dense.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I've been meaning to listen to The Tea Club for years, but never did I pull the trigger. However, with this release they demanded attention, and now I feel foolish for ignoring a very good band. While every song present on this album is worthwhile, expect for possibly "Sinking Ship", I'll only be go ... (read more)

Report this review (#2416462) | Posted by foregonillusions | Monday, June 29, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars THE TEA CLUB is a band that I have known in 2015 with "Grappling". Developing a crossover prog in line GENESIS period "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway," I went to get me "Rabbit" and "Quickly Quickly Quickly" more prog metal in my opinion. Hence my question: how would be received this new wine? A ... (read more)

Report this review (#2310065) | Posted by alainPP | Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Haven't been on the site to write/read and reviews in a while, both because I can't seem to find the time the time and well... I was never really good at it in the first place. Anyways, one of my favorite bands put out a new album and I truly think it's something special and worth a shout out. Let's ... (read more)

Report this review (#2242383) | Posted by Bucklebutt | Wednesday, August 7, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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