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Mona Lisa - Grimaces CD (album) cover


Mona Lisa


Symphonic Prog

3.48 | 41 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars For their sophomore release, Mona Lisa handled their nuclear sound straying apart from the predominance of gloomy moods that had marked the framework of the debut album "L'Escapade": as a result, "Grimaces" exhibits a more extroverted colorfulness, even aiming at the build-up of merry-go- round atmospheres in many places. If Pierson's use of organ and synthesizers in the aforesaid debut effort was close to a "B"-horror movie with heavy Gothic undertones, now the keyboard layers and solos tend to become festive. Mona Lisa still bears the Ange-relation stigma, but by now you can tell that the band is going headlong for a particular treatment of the theatricals (especially regarding Le Guennec's vocal deliveries), as well as a more accomplished rocking sound in the instrumental structure that encapsulates each track's development. The album kicks off with a cover of one of Georges Brassens' most famous songs, 'La Mauvaise Reputation', the drummer's frenzy and the keyboardist's energy install the framework quite adequately, but this happens to be the least impressive track in the album, all in all. 'Brume' displays a more solemn spirit, using a strange sense of melancholy through the guitar arpeggios and the keyboard ornaments. 'Complainte Pour Une Narcisse' comprises complex resources in a most typically progressive fashion, an exhibition of musical inspiration in a 4 ½ minute span. From then on, the album reaches a sort of zenith whose constant splendor can be easily interpreted as a solid anticipation of the sort of magic that the following two studio efforts will comply with. Anyway, let's stick to "Grimaces" by now. 'Le Jardin des Illusions' and 'Accroche-toi Et Suis Moi' both state efficiently driven amalgams of various motifs and moods, with a convincing utilization of robust instrumental arrangements and an inventive handling of each track's basic unity across their respective variations: the latter features an interesting (albeit too brief) passage in which Gallas brings some Hackettian soloing. Le Guennec almost makes himself present in front of the listener, since his charismatic use of soliloquies (cynical, playful, angry.) seems to create a hologram of a demented frontman in the air. Well, now I'm letting my imagination run a little wild, I'm sorry. 'Au Pays des Grimaces' brings on a more Crimson-related attitude, in this way elaborating an ethereal environment that might as well remind us of Ange's 'La Cimetière des Arelquins': the featured mellotron layers and spacey guitar phrases are a big help regarding this particular matter, but none of them equals the relevance of Le Guennec's impersonation of a decaying and tired old man in the first sung passage. The arrival of a punchy rocking section adds an effective variety, even exploring that rough edge that is so important in the band's Gallas-era albums. Of course, there is also that theatrical side related to circus season and folk naivety undeniably omnipresent throughout the entire album. The closing track 'Manges et Chevaux de Bois' is the most delicious finale that this album could have. Picture a mixture of Genesis' 'Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging' and Ange's 'Beauvoic', plus an anticipation of Mona Lisa's own 'Petit Violin' concept, and I won't need to go any further. This piece is a complete celebration that is very likely to leave the receptive listener wanting some more; Mona Lisa skeptics might as well have this album as an example of the grasp and limitations of this band's contribution to the world of prog rock, but the attentive collector will fins "Grimaces" a catapult of the stylish excellence pursued in the next two releases.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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