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The Tea Club biography
Formed in 2003 in New Jersey, USA

THE TEA CLUB is an independent rock band from New Jersey. They are known for writing songs of an epic nature, comparative to the early progressive rock bands of the 1960's and 70's. They also incorporate elements of post-rock, alternative rock, and space rock. A major part of the band's signature sound are the dual vocals and harmonies of Patrick and Dan McGowan, as well as their usage of unique guitar chords and chord patterns, often times played in alternate tunings. Patrick and Dan also draw nearly all of the band's album and promotional artwork. The band currently consists of Patrick McGowan, Dan McGowan, Joe Rizzolo, Jamie Wolff, and Renee Pestritto.

THE TEA CLUB was formed in 2003. Between the inception and fall 2006, they independently recorded four EP's, one of which attracted the attention of producer/engineer Tim Gilles (Thursday and Taking Back Sunday). Tim produced, recorded and mixed their first full length album entitled "General Winter's Secret Museum", which was released in July 2008.

After briefly touring General Winter's Secret Museum along the East Coast, THE TEA CLUB returned to Big Blue Meenie Studios to record their second album in the fall of 2009. The album was again produced by Tim Gilles, and featured guest keyboardist Tom Brislin (Spiraling, Yes, Renaissance).

THE TEA CLUB released their second album, "Rabbit", on October 9th 2010. They spent the rest of 2010 and the majority of 2011 playing many shows along the East Coast, including ProgDay, the world's longest running progressive music festival. Reviews and articles about the band were featured in publications such as Metro Philly, Indie Music Reviewer, Origivation, and JUMP. They ended the year 2011 by playing an acoustic show opening for Jimmy Gnecco of the band Ours at the North Star Bar in Philadelphia.

In early 2012, THE TEA CLUB once again returned to Big Blue Meenie Studios to record their third album with producer Tim Gilles. Following the recording sessions, THE TEA CLUB were asked to open for the Swedish progressive rock band Beardfish for their mini-tour of the United States in May 2012.

THE TEA CLUB's third album, "Quickly Quickly Quickly", was released on November 15th, 2012 to overwhelmingly positive reviews.

-Bio by Dan McGowan, updated Mar. 2013

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THE TEA CLUB discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

THE TEA CLUB top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.77 | 44 ratings
General Winter's Secret Museum
3.95 | 93 ratings
4.08 | 250 ratings
Quickly Quickly Quickly
4.04 | 187 ratings

THE TEA CLUB Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE TEA CLUB Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE TEA CLUB Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE TEA CLUB Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
5.00 | 1 ratings
Love Your Enemy
5.00 | 1 ratings
Clouded Gloomy Beloved
3.13 | 5 ratings
The Tea Club


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Quickly Quickly Quickly by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.08 | 250 ratings

Quickly Quickly Quickly
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Jay_K

5 stars This is easily one of my favorite albums of the decade.

The Tea Club truly found itself on this third studio endeavor. After having heard the previous release, Rabbit, I peeked at the track listing of Quickly Quickly Quickly and thought it might be an EP. How blissfully wrong I was! "Firebears" grabbed my attention immediately and held it for 18 straight minutes, with each subsequent song different enough from its predecessor that I remained transfixed from start to finish.

The lyrics here are intelligent and provocative. The music and vocals are passionate, diverse, exciting, and downright brilliant. The packaging, I must add, is absolutely glorious -- you're doing yourself a disservice if you merely stream or download this, because the CD's outer and inner artwork (designed by the absurdly multitalented McGowan brothers) are spectacular.

Quickly Quickly Quickly is, quite simply, perfect.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On Grappling, The Tea Club embrace their increasingly prog direction by kicking off in a decidedly Genesis-influenced vein, with Patrick McGowan's vocals more reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's than ever and the band likewise working in aspects of the classic Genesis compositional approach and sound here and there. As the album progresses, the shadow of Genesis lifts, so I would encourage listeners to pay attention all the way through before jumping to conclusions - The Tea Club haven't become a clone band, but they do seem to be paying a little tribute to one of their influences along the way here, but not so much as to derail them from their own distinct course.
 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The album first caught my attention when a review appeared on the PA homepage. It was the cover art that captured my eye. I read the review because I wanted to know if there was any good reason to bring this album art into my life. When the PA Top 100 of 2015 was up, this album grabbed my attention again as it was near the top of the list. I sampled some of the music on YouTube but wasn't convinced. But that artwork kept coming back to grab my attention. At last I relented and ordered the darn thing.

I had never heard of the Tea Club before so I don't know how to compare the music of this, their fourth album, to their previous works. But from track one, "The Magnet", I feel I can hear some Genesis, some Marillion and maybe a bit of the more serrated edge of Van der Graaf Generator. But this music strikes me as busier. "The Magnet" begins in full swing with the drums and bass holding down the fort while guitar and keyboards roam freely. It becomes as most of the album is: rather complex music. At times I wonder if any vocal melody was considered during the writing of the music or if the vocalist just had to find his own way. Whatever the case, I like the track.

Although each of the six songs have their individual introductions and musical atmospheres ("Remember Where You Where" begins quite softly; "Dr. Abraham" is very dark and ominous; "The Fox in a Hole" has a folky beginning), the music is generally complex and electric and busy. Softer sections do occur as do wilder and angular sections. There aren't so many vocal melodies, though "The Fox in the Hole" is something you could sing to. This is an album that takes a bit of growing but rewards with each subsequent listen.

I have one criticism and that is the sound quality. I find it a little dense. Loud music is often recorded densely; however, I went and checked a site that rates dynamic range of albums and found "Grappling" was rated at 05 average with a maximum of 06. This is pretty low and not good. Bad is a rating of 01 to 07; Transition is 08 to 13; and Good is 14 to 20. It's interesting to check out albums on this site because you can see how original releases in the 1980's had a decent dynamic range but later "remasters" compressed the sound and made the quality worse. It's only recently that 3rd, 4th or even 5th edition remasters have made an effort to return to a Good dynamic range. One guitarist remarked to me that he could see a good business in record companies remastering remastered albums with poor dynamic range back to their original dynamic range. Sad to say that many new releases are also compressed and dense. On their own they might sound okay or at least after the first track or two but comparing them to other albums with more DR or in some cases, just listening through to the end, and you begin to notice that something has been lost.

Dynamic range aside, the music and song-writing and performances here clearly indicate why this album did so well on PA in 2015. Incidentally, their previous album "Quickly, Quickly, Quickly" has the highest dynamic range of all their albums with a maximum of 11.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars

THE TEA CLUB Grappling

It's taken me a long time to get around to this late arrival to the 2015 catalog as I was fully enmeshed in trying to keep up with the new releases of 2016 before I was able to acquire this one. But time has given me a good chance to get to know this album pretty well. I'd read many reviewers commenting on the "new direction" The Tea Club had apparently taken with this album. I see it--mostly in the form of a much more present and flashy drummer and keyboard player than the last album. (Welcome Tony and Reinhardt!)

1. "The Magnet" (6:07) is a vibrant, intricately arranged song with stellar performances from all band members-- especially the way the guitars and keyboards mimic and weave in and out of each other's shadows. I love the pace of this one. A pretty-near flawless song and my favorite on the album. (10/10)

2. "Remember Where You Were" (7:43). Though new keyboard player Reinhardt McGeddon shone on the opening song, this is the one which really puts on full display his tremendous talents--layers and layers worth. The pacing of this song is a bit slow and syncopated for my tastes--or perhaps I find it difficult to match the rhythm section's play with the vocal and keyboard play. (Are they playing on the same song?) It almost has a Lamb Lies Down on Broadway "In the Cage" feel to it. (8/10)

3. "Dr. Abraham" (8:11) opens with a full low end, drumming on full display, with organ and guitars diddling in the background. When the vocals enter things cohere and then the music shape-shifts beneath. Over the course of the first two minutes I am befuddled by the sudden and, to my ears, incongruous time and dynamic shifts. The story about some kind of Doctor Abraham is told with quite some emotion--and, in the fourth minute, with two separate vocal lines going on simultaneously. Meanwhile, the heavy rhythm section and noodling organ and synths continue to play as if they are oblivious to one another. One of those songs whose choices for musical and vocal expression mystify me. The slow build from 5:00 to 6:00 is cool. The drummer is very good, but maybe a little too busy--which is a distraction for me. The "lamination" finale is just weird. (7/10)

4. "The Fox in the Hole" (4:45) opens with violin and acoustic guitars weaving a kind of medieval tapestry. Vocals soon join in--later to be joined by bass and drums and other multiple other voices. Electric guitar and organ 7 synths fill in the weave as the scattered, layered multiple vocals play around the sound field. Interesting. Adventurous. A top three song for me. (9/10)

6. "Wasp in a Wig" (6:16) opens in standard rock form with a pleasant lower register singing voice singing a fairly normal, straightforward vocal. At 1:10 the music drops and bass chord play are all we are left with. Gradually, a jazzy kind of collaboration builds before the vocals resume for a bit. A very nice drum and keyboard/synth solo ensue into the fourth minute. The vocals rejoin and sing with feeling as they are harmonized by the borther's background voice. (I've never been able to pinpoint which of the McGowan brothers is which.) Another synth solo fills a chunk of the fifth minute before a GG three-way vocal weave takes over. The final minute recapitulates the 1:10 quiet section with gentle key chords, drums and vocalise. Another top three song. (9/10)

7. "The White Book" (9:57) is the longest album on the album. As the band are fond of doing, The Tea Club use this temporal expanse to patiently explore several tangents--one full of subtlety and delicacy, the other with bombast and layers woven into one. My fourth top three song. (9/10)

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Bucklebutt

5 stars But good works will go unnoticed..

If you consider yourself a fan of progressive rock and you haven't checked out The Tea Club yet, do yourself a favor, stop reading this and do so.

The Tea Club sound like a blend of classics, combining the whimsicalness of early Genesis, the darker edge of King Crimson, a touch of Magma's weird beauty, the symphonic soarings of Yes, and a bit from practically any prog-rock great out there. Looking through the reviews you can see that many people detect many different inspirations, but one thing is for sure , there is a lot going on. And they manage to do all of this and still make a sound that is distinctly The Tea Club.

The Grappling is the fourth album from The Tea Club and shows the increasing progression of the band and their sound. The most notable inclusion to their sound here is the use of the keys on the album; most of their previous works are guitar centered. Their music is dense, and the addition and emphasis of keys here give us prog fans another layer of sound to chew on. You will surely hear something new each time with successive listens to the album.

I hope that The Tea Club soon gets the recognition they deserve, as one of the current best prog bands out there. I recently went and saw them live and was shocked, my friend, my wife, and I literally made up a sizable portion of the entire crowd. I'm aware that prog-rock isn't trendy, but I hope that they continue to get the support enough to continue making their unique and wonderful music.

Do yourself a favor and purchase a physical copy, the whole package oozes with creativity. A real piece of art.

My personal favorite album of 2015.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Tea's Magnum Opus to date

The Tea Club's presence in my life coincided quite directly with the arrival of multiple mid life crises. Up to around the time of General Winter things had been humming along quite swimmingly forever, then suddenly middle age events exposed just how fragile this existence is. It hasn't stopped since so maybe it never does. But it does seem that every time I've been in need there has been a new Tea arrival to grab hold of, these little musical life preservers. This time is no different. Grappling is a perfect title for the state of my life this last decade and in 2016. Once again their music opens the door to a place of imagination that allows a bit of escape...

As far as the band I also have wondered to myself the effect of the constant revolving door of musicians they've had. Not about personal dramas, or even about the challenges to live playing when people come and go, but rather about the creative process itself. What is it like to write and create with such a revolving cast of people in the ranks. From the outside it seems to affect it very little as the quality and creativity continue to impress. But I have to believe it must be more complicated than that. Perhaps chaos of that kind is a plus to the creative process of any band. The Tea Club have thrived many years despite this issue and deserve credit for perseverance in addition to the artistic merits.

"Grappling" was the hardest Tea Club album for me to embrace initially, which almost always means it will be most rewarding later-as was the case here. My initial struggle had more to do with my own circumstances than with the music, as of late I usually crave much simpler and direct payoff. With a great desire for musical relief I was instead hit by the density and drive of hurricane Grappling. I think I was subconsciously longing for a return to the shorter, more straight up, more direct immediacy of the Teas earlier days. I confess that unlike most "proggers" I personally treasure General Winter every bit as much as the more complex material, being first and foremost a rock fan. I've since realized I didn't need to worry. Grappling rocks just fine. It rocks fiercely.

Whereas QQQ had marked an uptick in ambition and scope over Rabbit, Grappling seems more in the QQQ realm but on a different path...a more interesting, more adventurous, and more sonically cleansing piece of work. The Teas no longer feel as if they are reaching for something, rather, they've grabbed it and they now sound absolutely at ease with the plane they are residing on. I feel I'm hearing more confidence than ever. If QQQ had ascended into their own "Close to the Edge" zone (titles are just for discussion of range, not comparing material necessarily) then the Teas are now firmly entrenched in a "Topographic/Relayer/Pawn Hearts" zone, poised and ready to attack. I will say there are moments on Grappling so intense that they do recall the frenzied chaos of "Gates of Delirium" jams or the dark, sinister alleys of "Pawn Hearts."

Indeed the six tracks on Grappling are the most intense and propulsive yet with new drummer Tony Davis nothing short of scorched earth in his approach. The overwhelming vibe seems to be one of wild abandon and I believe that as musicians exit their twenties there is a certain beckoning call to roar at maximum fang. Sure, 40 and 50 year olds occasionally roar but there is no authentic substitute for youth. Not to my ear anyway. The lighter moments on the album are equally as impressive with these whimsical yet complexly woven tales, of strange things and colorful characters. Dan sounds so enthused and passionate in these moments, like a storyteller of yore, he takes on that colorful bravado in his voice which sounds a little like the actors at the Renaissance Festival, you know the ones...the guys who seek to make you look like a fool in front of your lady. You can hear the joy and confidence coming through in the vocals and the brothers truly sound as if they are channeling stories from a quest. The lyrics for each of the six stories form a conceptual work and they do not disappoint, grand tales of an epic journey of some sort. Characters striving to survive some great battle, real or psychological, mired in apocalyptic overtones? I don't know...I'm not the best at deciphering lyrics.

"Under our roof, we heard a choir / Oh to see again the choir free / And to hear again the waters sing / On pale pastures and starving streams / No signs of The King have been seen / But tonight I will be waiting alone by the sea / To read a new page in The White..." -The White Book (McGowan)

There are so many neat little curios in the bag of tricks this time around. The first three tracks have such instrumental power in the ominous, building layers of sound as well as the always-strong vocal harmonies. The Fox in a Hole introduces Jamie Wolff's strings and a bit of folk charmed melody. Amazing vocal arrangements abound in this track, pure delight to listen to and challenging to perform live I'd wager. The strings go intentionally haywire toward the end creating tension even within the ranks of the quieter song. This flavor of side folk melody returns in the outtro for The White Book, which sounds devilishly like the woodland spirit of Comus crashing the moonlit Tea Club clearing! The keyboard work in White Book deserves a mention as well. So much mood and presence is evoked by the mysterious R McGeddon. So much heart and so many fantastic worlds imagined by brothers Pat and Dan. More than ever we need a high quality pro-shot live DVD of this band in their prime. Someone in their periphery should make it their mission to make that happen, there needs to be a high quality visual document of the live Tea Club.

I'm bouncing from one tangent to another with this "review" and my apologies to the band for that--I'm not in a great reviewing state of mind much these days. I can state with ease that Grappling is the most accomplished Tea Club release to date, which is saying quite a lot. I listened with great pleasure to their four albums while writing this and the progression and musical confidence can be heard literally with each step. It is fascinating to ponder where the band goes in the future, the only thing we know for sure is that unbridled curiosity and creativity are the torches they carry in the darkness.

Grappling will go down as one of the best of 2015 without question.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Angelo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars One of the bands for which I reviewed every album, maybe the only one. That's The Tea Club. Not because they sent me a complimentary review copy of every album, but also because I like their music. It's not what I play most, but every time I play it, I hear something that catches me. With their 2015 release Grappling that's no different.

The intro of The Magnet immediately grabs my attention, although I have no idea why exactly. It just works. Maybe it's the combination of guitar and keyboard melodies, or the vocals of the McGowan brothers, Dan and Patrick, no idea really. With Remember Where You Were (a song which' title reminds me every time of where I was when I heard David Bowie died earlier this year), that only continues. The emotion in the vocals combined with the organ in the background are ear candy.

The darker and gloomier Dr. Abraham contains interesting musical moves, as does The Fox In a Hole, which at first hearing seemed to start with a violin. In earlier reviews of The Tea Club albums, I referred to their nice blend of influences, which never becomes a copy of what other bands do. On The Fox in a Hole, it's the first time I was under the impression I was listening to an old, unreleased Genesis track, with a little bit of Caravan mixed in. Still, it's a unique thing, not a copy attempt, and still very welcome in the midst of all the 70s clones of the past few years. The same can be said about The White Book, the closign track of the album. No copies, just influences.

Now I skipped quickly Wasp in a Wig, in order to make it into the closing paragraph of this album review. This track is a bit guitar heavier than the rest and giving a bit more foreground to the bass. It starts slow, almost melancholic in the vocal sound, but moves on to a dual vocal, very varied track. It changes and comes back, without loosing coherence, and is very much my favourite on this album. An album that shows that even after 8 years, the quality and musicianship of The Tea Club is still on the same great level. Four stars once again.

Also published on my blog

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Specialist

5 stars A couple months ago received a mail from Dan McGowan who plays guitar in THE TEA CLUB, telling me that he had sent a copy of their latest album Grappling to my apartment, the time passed and never came, so after Christmas and all the movement of those days forgot about the record. In January Dan sent me another message asking if I liked what I heard, but I had to tell him that it never reached Lima, so he sent another one that received two days ago. Now after three months of waiting playing it like 20 times in 4 days, I feel comfortable reviewing it?.So let's go.

Every time I listen a new TEA CLUB album I get impressed with the maturity they keep acquiring, but when I stated to play The Magnet was absolutely shocked with the change. Even when they still play in their usual style (in general terms), the band is much more aggressive and musical than ever. But now they add radical changes, excellent vocals and amazing percussion that are like candy to my ears?I don't know how it's possible for the guys to keep improving with every release, but this time they shoot the ball out of the park with this complex and amazing song.

Remember Where You Were begins soft and atmospheric, but as the song advances, the music grows in intensity without leaving the dark and mysterious sound but adding interesting influences from the 70's, blending the frantic sound of "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" with the most pastoral moments of "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway", simply mind-blowing.

Dr. Abraham is hard to describe, because this is not what I expected from the hard rock band with Prog leanings who released "General Winter's Secret Museum" back in 2008, now they are playing some of the most elaborate music I heard in the past 5 years. They will remain in Heavy Prog because the guidelines of the site, but they are playing a different stuff that I would describe as a 100% Eclectic Prog with heavy leanings.

The Fox in the Hole reminds me a lot of GENTLE GIANT with a modern twist and an "in your face" attitude, this guys know how much they have grown and no longer are afraid to show it. The vibrant violin passage by Jamie Wolff in the vein of GENTLE GIANT and the complex vocal sections by Dan and Patrick really impressed me.

Wasp in the Wig starts as a blues based heavy song, but after the second minute, you can expect anything, this time the piano and synths by Reinhardt McGeddon are out of his world. I tried to find references from other keyboardists to somehow locate myself, but I can't, because this sound is unique and a delight for Progressive Rock listeners.

The album is closed by The White Book, a song I won't even attempt to describe, because is one in a kind, they move from a soft Mellotron intro to frenetic passages, acoustic guitar solos and even dark and almost Gregorian chorales, you must listen to believe what this guys are doing.

After listening the whole album repeatedly, I'm in deep trouble, being that if the guys of THE TEA CLUB keep on this path, I will need a new rating system for their next release?This time I will go with a 5 solid stars for a really amazing album.

PS: Special mention to Tony Davis who does an outstanding job in the drums.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 'Grappling' - The Tea Club (87/100)

The Tea Club's Quickly Quickly Quickly was probably the finest progressive rock album released in 2012, and I made no effort to hide my enthusiasm for it. In my eyes, they merged the modern with the traditional par perfection on that album. They did for me what most others couldn't; that is, prove that traditional 70s prog could be harnessed to suit a cutting-edge sound. More exciting that was possibly the fact that The Tea Club showed earnest potential to be one of the few from the progressive rock underground who could possibly earn serious attention from beyond the close-knit prog scene that's mustered together as the years have gone by. Like the best parts of The Mars Volta and The Dear Hunter were paired up with the pastoral warmth of Genesis and cerebral overload of Gentle Giant, there was plenty of reason to feel excited for this band, even if (no, especially if) a listener had spent most of their lives listening to the style already.

So yeah. With Quickly Quickly Quickly, I thought relatively widespread attention might be on the trajectory for The Tea Club. I no longer think that about the band come Grappling. This has nothing at all to do with the false assumption The Tea Club are somehow less deserving of accolades than before. Nor will I say that Grappling is a completely new ballgame for the band I've called the best working band in US prog rock. No. For what it's worth, Grappling is an intense continuation of the band's sound. They have never sounded this dense and harrowing. If it was even somehow possible (apparently it is) the musicianship on Grappling makes the frantic instrumentation on Q3's "Firebears" almost sound soothing by comparison. It should be stated before anything else that The Tea Club have unleashed another masterpiece here, and it doesn't even fall short when compared to the modern classic that preceded it.

Yet The Tea Club have still distanced themselves from widespread success on this one, now probably moreso than ever. They've moved towards ever-increasingly complex and vintage territory, most likely to the glee of self-proclaimed proggers and the chagrin of everyone else. It's an interesting thing, really; I would usually peg a retrogressive 1970s revival as being inherently tame compared to something new, but The Tea Club have managed to sound more challenging than ever as their sound becomes more vintage. The result of which is an intensely multi-layered album that doesn't give itself up easily to a listener. Grappling is another amazing album from these guys, and even if it has more of its foot in the traditional than I've heard from them before, it is most certainly fresh new ground the band is exploring here.

Comparisons with the old guard only do so little in the case of modern reviews, but I would like to say how much I felt reminded of Gentle Giant throughout listening to Grappling. The Tea Club are easily more emotionally in touch here than Gentle Giant ever were, but I imagine a similar creative process of trying to build up each arrangement to the absolute brim. Compare that to Q3 or even Rabbit, where the prog rock fireworks were moderated by a subtle pop tendency. I wouldn't say The Tea Club's fundamental songwriting approach is much different than its been on past records, but as composers and arrangers, it's another game entirely. Even on the most pastoral and pop-oriented track "The Fox in the Hole", The Tea Club are continuously trying to test the boundaries of how much density they can get away with.

The overwhelming complexity isn't a good or bad thing on its own but it does largely define the experience of Grappling, especially when it's set up in comparison with the band's past work. I will say that I am glad I've given the album as much time and patience as I have. Some technically-inclined music reveals itself immediately, but there is little instant gratification here. Even if you're a prog veteran, be unsurprised if the first few listens leave you cold. On the first listen, I certainly knew I was listening to something great, but wasn't feeling it the same way the first spin of Q3 left me on my ass. Sure enough, repeated listens start bringing sense to Grappling. "The Fox in the Hole" and "The Magnet" probably stand out as personal favourites, if only for the fact they remind me most of Q3. Amid the constant pyrotechnics, it's an added accomplishment that each of the six labyrinths here has a character of their own. "Dr. Abraham", for instance, is hectic and angular. "The Magnet" has a quirky optimism, whereas "The White Book" sounds desolate by comparison.

Do I really endorse the increasingly complex, proggy direction The Tea Club are going down? Even loving Grappling as much as I do, I'm not sure I have an answer to that. Suffice to say, it offers its own experience that is distinct-- though not separate-- from their past achievements, with all the pros and cons that come with an artist's evolution. At the end of the day, I think it's just inspiring to hear a band play to the absolute limits of their abilities. And considering I can think of few in progressive music today that play together as well as The Tea Club, that is saying a lot.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 187 ratings

The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Smurph

5 stars The Tea Club are one of the best unsigned bands on the planet. Over the years they've blended long-form symphonic rock, complex arrangements, and some beautiful melodies/chord structures.

This time they've taken a step forward in their sound... while they are still obviously influenced by the early 70's (especially in the mix and compression levels), they are reaching deep into a place that could only exist in this modern world of paranoia, surveillance, and humanity's ever-impending self-destruction.

Even at 'Grappling's most triumphant moments I'm overcome with a sense of sadness, as though the only way to celebrate our lives on this planet is through understanding its darkest depths. Am I traversing a beautiful forest with an underlying feeling of being watched by something or someone that intends to impede or even kill me? Am I on the subway, underneath a concrete jungle, surrounded by people but touched by a sort of loneliness one can only feel in the company of narcissistic beasts? Or is this all a dream? Have we already lived our lives?

This is apparent especially on Dr. Abraham, which may be The Tea Club's best song in their discography. It's one of the most immediately weird and off-putting tracks they've done, though it retains a catchiness that sticks with you for days. After a couple dozen listens to this track I still get goosebumps. It's great to hear a non-metal and even non-hard rock band give off a frightening vibe while somehow still retaining hope. (If hope is capable of being itself.) While there are a couple similarities to them on the 2nd and 6th track, this album connects with me more than anything Genesis ever did.

There's also something to be said about the keyboard playing on this album. Upon first listen you might think they have 2 keyboardists. There is a certain level of detail in the arrangements that few modern prog bands have accomplished, especially considering they went the natural sounding route of playing to a drummer (who kills it on this album) instead of a click.

I can't forget the vocals either, which are the most developed and focused of any album by The Tea Club. Each individual aspect of the sound is pretty much perfect to me. No refrain sounds repetitious, no section egregious. Even with a couple small parts that sound obviously 'prog' I never felt as though I was ankle deep in cheese.

This is absolutely not a mechanical wankfest of notes. This is beautiful, forward-thinking, strange music that will deeply resonate with you if you have heart and a desire to more deeply understand the human condition. 'Grappling' is a testament to musical dedication and creativity. You owe it to yourself to at least give this album a listen.

Thanks to micky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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