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Beardfish - Sleeping In Traffic - Part Two CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.19 | 707 ratings

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2 stars Beardfish are a likable bunch with a powerful sound, they've got complete control over their instruments, the band's leader is amazing, not only does he write all of the music and play nearly all of the keyboards but he also takes all the lead vocals (some beautifully vulnerable passages in there). The many positive reviews on Progarchives gave me the impression this album HAD to be a masterpiece - all those seasoned critics just couldn't be wrong, could they?

Well, I'm afraid they did have it wrong, and I'm totally astonished that, at the time of writing, this ranks among the three most popular albums of 2008. In spite of the professionalism and the goodwill on display, Beardfish's sophomoric humour and post-adolescent angst totally get me down.

Now Frank Zappa is often criticised for being a homophobe and a misogynist - wrongly, in my view. His lyrics get misinterpreted by people who just don't understand satire IN GENERAL. Zappa was a misanthrope in the same vein as Jonathan Swift; he couldn't help seeing the ridiculous side of everyone and everything. Zappa's lyrics may annoy you, but at least they're never dull - except on albums which turn out to be rush job.

SLEEPING IN TRAFFIC PART TWO is not a rush job, it's intended as a Big Statement, and Beardfish have taken a leaf out of Zappa's book, but I simply don't know what to make of 'South of the Border', a tune in which a guy is first ridiculed for lamely chatting up the ladies in a bar, and then for sleeping with a balding drag queen, only to be finally praised (???) in an overly operatic manner with the words:

"How could something he had always thought was filthy growing up, suddenly seem so right? 'CAUSE HE WAS GAY!"

I don't know if this kind of thing passes for Political Correctness in Sweden (where Beardfish are from), but to me it sounds cack-handed in the extreme.

This album's magnum opus, 'Sleeping in Traffic', is even worse. The first ten minutes sound nicely angst-ridden, the band spell it all out for you, piling cliché upon cliché... By all means, people, write a 35+ mins. epic if you must, but be aware your listeners expect some kind of tension, and an emotional climax or two! Instead, Beardfish soon descend into whimsy. Suddenly we're sailing "from Norway to Peru" with a bunch of stage pirates. (If you thought Genesis' "Willow Farm" was embarrassing, try THIS!) We end up in a 1970s disco, and sure enough, borrowing yet another of Zappa's ideas, the band launch into the "ha ha ha ha" from the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive", and of course they can't leave it at that, their singer also sees the need to incorporate the Bee Gees' lyrics into his vocals. I can imagine this passage might cause sniggering among hairy prog-lovers (unable to dance, of course) whenever Beardfish play live, but the recorded version bored me from the first time I heard it...

Soon after, the song's protagonist is confronted with a "concrete stone faced super sonic ultra bitch" (???) and her boyfriend, a punk who's got dyed hair, and out come these lyrics, tantalisingly slow:

The punk is raising living hell / I decide to grow my shell / Run from here while I still can / 'Cause he's got a gun in his hand / Shooting bullets where they hit / Or wherever they may fit / My stomach begins to ache a bit / And I collapse while thinking: "shit"

This passage sounds so lame you can't believe anyone would want to waste your time with this. (There is none of Zappa's customary SHARPNESS.) And so "Sleeping in Traffic" fizzles out.

I hate to slag Beardfish off, since any new band which aims to make music in the grand prog tradition ought to be encouraged and, moreover, the band apparently like Chimay, one of the beers from my own native country. As I said, much of their playing is good fun. The album's instrumental bits are excellent, and maybe, given some time, I'll even come to forgive the band their sheer goofiness...

But I feel I ought to write, above all, an honest review. Since Beardfish have been wildly overrated in these parts, please be warned: you may have the same reservations about their music as I do.

fuxi | 2/5 |


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