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




Eclectic Prog

4.05 | 483 ratings

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4 stars "Shout out loud dark poet, full of sight.make your words live on and on and on."

With the first installment of Sleeping in Traffic , Beardfish were able to reach a crucial stage of artistic maturation: an important step in the ongoing process of becoming a successful, and hopefully popular young band. They've made a considerable splash in the prog community, but have not yet ascended the top ranks. But that may soon change as word is getting out about the quirky young Swedes with an unapologetically "vintage" sound. In early 2007, Beardfish had enough material to put out another double-disk follow up to rival The Sane Day but wisely held back to 65 minutes this time. The result is long and lean-no weak spots to be found whatsoever. Right off the bat, the songwriting is improved over the previous album, and much of the obvious homage's to "classic" artists (i.e. Zappa) have taken a back seat to a more assured Beardfish sound. You'll still hear a fair shake of Gentle Giant, but Beardfish do their own thing with it-fans of these guys will readily spot the differences between the two. They take one of the hallmark approaches of the Giant - sharp, tactful interplay between colorful instruments, often bounding between exuberance and more reflective parts. Beardfish like to come straight at you, and then shake it up a bit before slowing down and letting everything sink in. We have rock a la RHCP, a little jazz a la Wigwam, some grungy parts, and lots of quality prog rock on a foundation reminiscent of vintage Focus.but uniquely Beardfish by now. I sometimes feel as if I'm doing an injustice by namedropping here, but these guys are confident enough to come right out and acknowledge the influences, and competent enough to give them a fresh facelift.

"Sleeping in Traffic: Part One" is introduced by a sad, lonely accordion which breaks directly into the first epic song, appropriately titled "Sunrise", leading off the seemingly elementary concept of 'a day in the life'. This track is quite moody for Beardfish, but as we'll see, they've integrated more melancholy into their music, as well as touching deeper themes with the lyrics. The words won't be too dense here; sometimes veering to the oblique, but countered by direct attacks during the aggressive sections ("She won't miss me when I'm gone!"; "It feels so hard to live this life"). Rikard Sjoblom's voice is better than ever, showing great transition between smooth and rough, light and dark - vocals are undoubtedly a strong suit, especially seeing that English is not the band's primary language; yet there is only occasional evidence of this (so don't worry if heavy accents bother you). On the softer side, the band shows that they are readily capable of doing effective ballads in between the chunkier compositions. The dramatic take-off of "Sunrise" is followed by the contemplative regret of "Afternoon Conversation". "Dark Poet" and "Without You" are in a similar vein, spread conveniently across the album in the cracks between. But these are by no means afterthoughts; the former being an emotionally charged piano ballad complete with resurgent climax that will have you out off yer seat.

"I could see you dance in the middle of the road to my heart."

The dominant display of progressive tracks, falling between five and 12 minutes, show the band improving upon their musical abilities; the interplay is tight and risky, the solos.not as much solos as instrumental sections sticking with an intended goal or effect. So they've taken to the general 'Giant' mold nicely. David Zackrisson is allowed more room to flex on guitar than on the previous records, and his skill has noticeably increased. Sjoblom continues to step in on second lead guitar when necessary. "And Never Know" goes for the throat with a killer double-lead on guitar; the slashing intro reminiscent of Larks-era Fripp, contrasted by soulful slabs of wah-wah and a catchy verse-chorus playing contrast. Robert Hansen's bass begins to jump out; he plays an important part in the versatile dynamic between eccentric soul and contemplative density.not relegated to one particular track. Almost as if to showcase their flighty propensity, the heavy guitar track is followed by a circus keyboard-track. "Roulette" strikes an introspective note on the ever-present issue of religion and modern society.quite bleak and personal but easy to digest from the listener's perspective because the words are straight-forward and the melodies are catchy throughout-deceptively up-beat. A magnificent spectacle gone terribly wrong, but amusing to this by-stander.

"It's not a choice anymore, they've fed your hate since birth."

"Killing in the name of God; killing to preserve our precious 'peace'!"

The second half of the album hits stride with three straight prog tracks of the tight, compact 6-7 minute variety. "Harmony" is again, packed with emotion and manages to sound bluesy and lounge- y (okay I made that last one up). At first, this track seemed out of place on the album and it's seemingly languid pace in comparison with the rest didn't jive with my short attention span. I've actually found this the case with the epic track from the following album-Beardfish albums probably take a few more listens to get everything "sorted out" in a way, because they're relatively long (from what I'm used to). But anyway, I came to realize that "Harmony" fits in perfectly fine, and it shows once again, that the band can shift gears any time they like, and try on different styles. Special mention to Rikard Sjoblom.yet again.for his passionate vocals, he knows when to hold back and then really let go when the time is right. The Hammond organ is in full force for that jazzed-up blues approach. The other guys don't have any problem keeping up, and I haven't even mentioned Magnus Ostgren on drums-he and Hansen really are a solid rhythm section with the ability to go wherever Sjoblom's songwriting suggests. Ostgren takes to the jazzier parts best, but has visibly improved his pounding ability at the faster, rockier ones.

"The Ungodly Slob" is an instrumental that brings back the good times, armed with several effective grooves that are recycled throughout. The first one, near the beginning has insanely creative use of all weapons at once: trippy, old-school guitar soaring over funky basslines, feverish clavinet/Hammond, and slick drumming. The track has lots cool guitar effects and moog solos, and I really dig the main bass/clavinet line. The last two minutes calm down, before "Year of the Knife" goes back to that funky sound, this time with lyrics that keep with the themes visited on the first half ("They've killed so many that it's hard to really know who's left"), and also uses transition between darker and deceptively up- beat parts. The hectic vigor of "Knife" vanishes into hopelessness by "Without You", a short acoustic qualm leading into the final blow, "Sunset" which expounds some familiar themes with more heaviness. It actually begins in the same self-pitying vein as "Harmony" but builds into a fiery outtro that reprises the "She won't miss me when I'm gone!" theme. By the time this closes out, I'm left with no doubt that Beardfish really know what they're doing, now armed with an impressive depth of feeling to go with their established swagger. "Part One" is in my mind, their best album because it makes the most use of darkness, or maybe because everything has purpose-there's no fooling around, but still plenty to chew on. The follow up, "Part Two" is great as well, but doesn't quite have the consistency; this one is one great tune after another.

PA rating: Maybe this album isn't suited for those looking more experimental music, but anyone who wants to hear a flat-out solid record packed with fun and interesting ideas will find enjoyment here. 4.5/5

The Jimmy Row Factor: 8.5/10, B+

jimmy_row | 4/5 |


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