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Beardfish - The Sane Day CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.95 | 268 ratings

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3 stars Double albums are often an iffy thing for me, no matter how much I love a band. I feel like the main reason for this comes from the fact that I believe that if you're making a double album, the music has to be degrees better than one would otherwise expect in order to justify the additional length. This is then taken to another level when bands start makng albums approaching 2 hours long, as it's almost certain that no matter how great the music is, 2 hours will still likely daunt the listener, and this is a big reason why I have only listened to the debut album of The Flower Kings at this point in time. This is the first album by Beardfish that I've listened to, and I can already say, while this album has flaws, I'll definitely want to be checking out the rest of their discography, as I'm highly impressed with what is presented here. There is a clear retro prog sound that the band has, taking heavy inspiration from King Crimson and Zappa in particular, with a definite feel of the more eclectic side of prog, with each song having a lot of musical ideas strewn throughout, while having the more funny, entertaining lyricism of Zappa, as well as some awesome guitar work in that sort of vein. The biggest take away I had from this album however, is how human everything sounds, while Zappa's songs were primarily based in reality, there was either an absurdist, or satirical edge that went along with many of his lyrics, where in Beardfish's case, there's a sense of comfort and fun that comes across. Their lyrics sound less like a commentary on modern life, and more like an exploration of it, which I find extremely refreshing and interesting in a genre typically filled with higher concept ideas or simply just bombast.

Despite my extremely warm impression of this band, I must admit that this album is one that I cannot fully enjoy, exactly for the reasons explained at the start, there's just too much music here for me to be able to enjoy properly. Even though I feel this way, there are without a doubt some incredible tracks to be found on here, the highlight undoubtedly, and somewhat unfortunately being the amazing opener A Love Story, which tells an emotional narrative and displays the more loose songwriting feel that the band has. The song feels simultaneously grandiose and humble, with a dramatic intro that becomes a motif throughout the song, contrasted by the story of the song, which covers a fairly down to earth topic of breakups, immediately establishing the identity of the band in a highly effective way. I love the elements of quirkiness the song incorporates as well, such as direct references to Frank Zappa albums, small sections of vocal distortion, and a line singing about wanting to scream, before then belting out a high note that never fails to put a smile on my face. Other notable songs from the first half are Tall Tales and The Gooberville Ballroom Dancer, both accentuating the wonderful lyricism at play, while also being extremely strong from a musical perspective. Tall Tales presents more mystical imagery, but once again puts it through the lens of reality by having it be told as a compilation of wild stories by someone clearly lying about their journeys, yet the whimsical nature of everything in the song makes it highly compelling to follow along nonetheless. The Gooberville Ballroom Dancer is the most bombastic song on the album by a considerable margin, telling a ridiculous, humourous story with hard hitting riffs and a lovely amount of absurdism. The high energy present here perfectly contrasts the extremely laid back Mudhill, and gives the feeling of being taken on a journey, despite the fact that the songs are all unrelated on this album. The occasional moments of heaviness or darkness found throughout the album further improves it, displaying a great variety while still sticking to its core identity, epitomised by the Fripp styled guitar playing in The Summit.

As you can see, I find the first half of the album to be excellent all around, easily a 4 star album at the very least, but the issue comes from the extremely weak second half, which starts off with 2 more gems before becoming a massive slog. Of the two songs, the titular track is a dark instrumental that moves at a much slower pace than anything else on the album, and Blue Moon is a shorter song showcasing some incredible soloing, but neither of which stand up to the powerful first half of the album. After this, there are a number of instrumental reprises of past songs, none of which do anything to grab me, since I've already heard them in their fullly realised forms. Even the actual songs on this side, such as Mystique of the Beauty Queen and The Reason of Construction and Or Building a Pyramid just do absolutely nothing for me, likely partially to do with the fact that there has already been so much music beforehand that more feels like a chore, but also because it feels like there is a considerable lack of inspiration at this point, with the majority of the top quality ideas being used up, as is often the case with albums approaching this length.

Overall, while the first half of this album is tremendous in quality, the second half falls flat on its face for the most part and dampens the listening experience by a lot. The identity of Beardfish is established very clearly here however, and it's an identity that I absolutely adore, causing me to hastily want to listen to the remaining discography of this band, as despite the mixed affair that this album is, I nonetheless already love this band. I'd recommend the first half of this record to anyone who's a fan of the heavier side of classic prog and also enjoys having some humour in their music, as this is undoubtedly something you'd find at least some enjoyment in. I look forward to listening to their other , shorter albums for sure.

Best songs: A Love Story, The Gooberville Ballroom Dancer, The Summit, Blue Moon

Weakest songs: The Basic Blues, the many instrumental interludes on the second half

Verdict: I love what this album was trying to be, and find the first half of it to be an exceptional album, extending to the first 2 tracks of the second side. After this point, it falls off hard, but even so, this is still worth a listen if you like the more classic side of prog, especially Zappa.

Kempokid | 3/5 |


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