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Thinking Plague


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Thinking Plague In This Life album cover
4.12 | 89 ratings | 8 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1989

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Lycanthrope (7:17)
2. Run Amok (3:11)
3. Malaise (4:40)
4. Organism (version II) (11:46)
5. Love (7:14)
6. The Guardian (5:30)
7. Fountain Of All Tears (7:39)
8. Moonsongs (Remix) (15:10) *
9. Possessed (Remaster) (8:14) *

* Bonus tracks on 1989 CD release

Total Time: 70:35

Line-up / Musicians

- Susanne Lewis / vocals (1-8), accordion (3), violin & lap steel guitar (6)
- Mike Johnson / electric & acoustic (7) guitars, mandolin (1), synth (9), vocals (1,4,8)
- Shane Hotle / piano (1-4,8)
- Lawrence Haugseth / clarinet (1,3), synth (3), piano & vocals (4)
- Mark Harris / baritone sax (2), clarinet (2,5), flute & sax (5)
- Maria Moran / bass (1-3,5,6), guitar (7)
- Bob Drake / drums, percussion (4), bass (4,6-8), violin (1,4,6,7), balalaika & synth (9), vocals (4,6)

- Fred Frith / guitar (4)
- Eric Jacobson / synth & sampler & percussion (4), synth & piano & vocals (8)
- Mark Fuller / drums (4,8,9), tabla & percussion (4), kalimba & vocals (8)
- Glen Nitta / soprano clarinet (8)
- Fred Hess / alto sax (8)
- Mark McCoin / drums & vocals (8)
- Sharon Bradford / vocals (9)
- Harry Fleishman / synth & piano (9)

Releases information

Artwork: Susanne Lewis

CD ReR Megacorp ‎- ReR TPCD (1989, UK) With 2 bonus tracks
CD Cuneiform Records ‎- Rune 407 (2015, US) Remastered by Mark Fuller

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THINKING PLAGUE In This Life ratings distribution

(89 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (11%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THINKING PLAGUE In This Life reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
4 stars "In This Life" is THINKING PLAGUE's third album. Besides 7 new songs it also contains 2 old songs: a re-mix of "Moonsongs", released in it's originally version on an LP with the same name in 1987, and a re-mastering of "Possessed", originally released on Thinking Plague's debut LP "a Thinking Plague" in 1984. Tree of the musicians on this CD has been replaced between this CD and their most recent CD "In Extremis" (1998). Gone are Susanne Lewis (voice, guitar), Maria Moran (bass, guitar) and Lawrence Haugseth (clarinet), and the new ones are David Kerman (drums, percussion), Deborah Perry (voice) and David Willey (bass guitar, accordian). In my review of "In Extremis" I mentioned that THINKING PLAGUE had similarities to bands such as MAGMA, ESKATON and YES. This album has the same similarities and I can also add some KING CRIMSON to the reference. There's a lot of experimental freshness, musical geniality and craziness and you can listen to it repeatedly and always hearing new things. I also like the surreal cover painting by THINKING PLAGUE member Susanne Lewis. It really captures the spirit of their music. "In This Life" is close to the masterpiece "In Extremis" and I strongly recommend them both, but only if you want something different and if you're an adventurer in progressive rock. Because it isn't easy listening!

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars Rarely have I been this disappointed with a group of the Cuneiform label stable. Thinking Plague is made from great musicians who apparently are very knowledgeable and gifted as is the standard at Cuneiform.

The trouble is that the Thinking Plague seems to be making complex music for the sake of making complex music (much like a certain artistic movement did Art for Art's sake), taking away all sense in the Musical Oeuvre (in terms of sense) but this does not mean that there is no creativity. One thing is certain, though: Bjork must've heard this band before starting her solo career because there are many elements present in this album and the earlier ones that one can detect throughout Bjork's career.

The people used to reading my reviews know that I enjoy listening to elaborated and dark/obscure stuffbut here,I think that Thinking Plague should only please progheads with an acute taste for non-sensical and difficult music. And I seem to rate myself out of that category....... This should warn you about this band.

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars This would be vocalist Susanne Lewis' last album with the band. She would go on to guest on 5UU's "Hungers Teeth" several years later. What a talented lady though. She did the art work for the album cover, wrote almost all of the lyrics, played some guitar, accordion and violin besides singing. Bob Drake and Mike Johnson are the cornerstones of this band in creating the music as well as engineering and mixing the tunes. I was impressed by Maria Moran who plays a mean and in your face bass, and she's cute too. Lots of clarinet and keyboards here as well. I wasn't expecting this album to be so good. For me it's their best album. Sure it's challenging and complex but it's also melodic with some amazing tunes top to bottom.There is nothing average about any of the music here, it's all brilliant as far as i'm concerned.

"Lycanthrope" opens with strummed guitar as a full sound kicks in quickly. Nice bass and we get vocals before a minute. Incredible sound here. It settles after 1 1/2 minutes and this sounds amazing as well.That heavy rhythm kicks back in and you gotta love that chunky bass.Vocals are back. I'm just blown away by this opening number. "Run Amok" has this insane intro with vocals. It settles beck then picks back up.This is psychotic. It reminds me of UNIVERS ZERO when they play that uptempo and intricate music in that classical style. It settles back again to the end. "Malaise" is heavy, dark and slow moving with melancholic, almost spoken vocals. Great tune. "Organism (Version II)" opens with percussion sounds including tablas as well as guitar before it turns dark and eerie. By the way that's Fred Frith guesting on guitar at the beginning. It's building before 2 minutes then it settles back and the vocals join in. A change before 4 minutes as percussion comes back to the fore. It turns heavy and vocals return as the music continues to twist and turn until that relentless percussion returns right to the end.

"Love" is a heavy mid paced track with vocals. Great sound 5 minutes in and I like the way the song ends too. "The Guardian" is one of my favourites.There's an ethnic vibe her with violins and vocals standing out.This just sounds so good and i'm actually rocking out to it as well (haha). "Fountain Of All Tears" is another amazing track.The sound builds and we get some deep bass sounds here.Vocals after 1 1/2 minutes. Love the vocal melodies and that catchy rhythm late. Interesting that Bob is on bass here and Maria is on electric guitar.

This album is just an incredible feast for the ears with all that lights out instrumental work.This is my favourite recording from the band.The two bonus tracks from earlier in their careers is a nice touch as well.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Thinking Plague's In This Life finds the band following the precedent set by the Henry Cow/Art Bears/News From Babel dynasty. Blessed with the intriguing vocals of Susanne Lewis, who would part ways from the group after this release, I am particularly reminded of the Art Bears side of the equation, since Thinking Plague also seem to be seeking a balance between structured songwriting and avant-garde soundscapes this time around. It has a somewhat different vibe from In Extremis, most likely because of the personnel changes between the two releases, but it's a strong and credible release from an earlier era of the Plague.
Review by kev rowland
4 stars Reissued as a remastered edition in 2015, 'In This Life' is not merely a fascinating album of extraordinary rock-based songs. It is a landmark recording in the life of one of America's most distinctive bands and in the international spread of Rock in Opposition-style sophisticated post-rock. Recorded in 1988-89 by Denver-based Thinking Plague, one of the most esteemed and longstanding American avant-progressive ensembles, 'In This Life' marked Thinking Plague's stylistic coming-of-age. The band had recorded two earlier albums in the years since its 1982 co-founding by Mike Johnson and Bob Drake: those early works brought Thinking Plague national "underground" acclaim. But the line-up responsible for In This Life, with Mike Johnson handling composition and Susanne Lewis supplying lyrics and vocals, proved to be the early group's ideal creative brew. It was originally released on Recommended Records (ReR), the London-based label run by Chris Cutler, founder of the Rock in Opposition movement and member of renowned band Henry Cow. One track on the album featured a guest appearance by Fred Frith, the legendary Henry Cow/Art Bears guitarist. It became ReR's first-ever release on the then-radically-new format of CD - a format that simplified the disc's international distribution.

Even now, all these years on from when it was originally released, this is in many ways quite a frightening and disturbing album, almost as if Art Zoyd have gone to another level and have then brought in a female singer who is totally at odds with what else is going on musically behind her. This was never meant to be an album that was easy to listen to, and with its discordant melodies and other worldliness, is one that will repel far more people than would ever listen to it. It is off key, it is controlled, it is anarchic, yet for me is also deeply compelling. It isn't an album that I will ever play a great deal, but I find myself drawn back to it time and again. This isn't music for a large audience on a bright sunny day, but is to be enjoyed in the night, when nothing else will suffice. RIO doesn't get much more inventive and important as this.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars Having made quite the splash in the avant-rock scene of the 1980s, Denver's THINKING PLAGUE followed up the already strange avant-prog sensation "Moonsongs" with an even more experimental stylistic approach. The band spent a couple years rehearsing in an old yoghurt factory and expanded its lineup to include seven full-time band members and eight guest musicians including Fred Frith who contributed guitar parts on the album's longest track "Organism (Version II)." IN THIS LIFE continued THINKING PLAGUE's unique stylistic mix of classic Henry Cow and Art Bears only with a much more expansive musical palette.

While guitars, bass, keyboards and drums kept the band's sound firmly in the realms of avant-progressive rock, the jazzy sounds of saxophones were retained. What's new for IN THIS LIFE was the addition of various African and Balinese percussion instruments which decorate the album's run with carefully crafted tribal drum circles that offer a hypnotizing base to get all weird around. Also new to the band were accordions, violins, mandolins, clarinets and various other ethnic instruments such as the Russian balalaika.

Having already developed a unique avant-prog sound all their own, this time around THINKING PLAGUE simply expanded in to a larger than life array of musical motifs, even more angular compositions and an emphasis on extremely diverse passages that resulted in one of the band's most memorable experiences. Having wooed the Henry Cow members, Chris Cutler was so impressed that he released IN THIS LIFE on his own Recommended Records label and it became the first US release off his British label.

Released in 1989, IN THIS LIFE couldn't have been more different than what was considered popular at the time. This album originally featured seven original tracks plus two bonus tracks that included a remixed version of "Moonsongs" and a remastered version of "Possessed," the former from the previous album of the same name and the latter from the band's 1984 eponymously titled debut. "Lycanthrope" begins the album in the by then typical THINKING PLAGUE style with bizarrely woven musical motifs slinking around like jittery serpents in a mating ritual. The seven minute track generates all the proper avant-prog mojo that sets the tone for the flirtatious frenzy to come.

The following "Run Amok" is perhaps the most immediate and frenetic of any THINKING PLAGUE material ever released. With crazy frantic piano runs, it reminds a bit of Present's debut "Triskaïdékaphobie" only begins to showcase alternating soundscapes that were designed to craft the ultimate contrast. The skilled musicians somehow managed to create long abstract passages with sophisticated instrumental interplay and given how atonal and utterly challenging such acrobatics may have been, countless rehearsals must've been required to achieve such intricate stylistic approaches and hairpin turns. "Malaise" returns to a less frenetic pace however offers a complete detachment from reality with claustrophobic atmospheres and jittery time signature rich percussive drive.

The remaining tracks generate the same wow factor with a never-ending series of bass grooves and multi-instrumental contrapuntal weirdnesses and of course vocalist Susanne Lewis nailed her role with equally bizarre uses of the voice. "The Guardian" takes on an Eastern European ethnic flair whereas the closing original "Fountain Of Tears" sounds like an avant-version of something The Cranberries may have dreamed up if they delved into the crazy complexities that THINKING PLAGUE has deftly mastered at this point. Even the bonus tracks were among the most complex from the previous albums fit in perfectly in company with the new material.

IN THIS LIFE is certainly the type of musical experience that requires a great many spins to totally sink in. This has always been a four star album in my book but it wasn't until i started listening to it more often with with my full attention that it finally sunk in that this is a bonafide masterpiece of avant-prog rock. Everything is just to larger than life on this one with crazy transitions, exotic juxtapositions of ethnic flavors and the stylistic approach from the Rock In Opposition masters. Unfortunately this would be the last album with Suzanne Lewis which left the band without a singer. They tried to replace her but it would take another seven years to find the proper replacement to release the band's next masterpiece "In Extremis." Crazy complex and too good to be true, this album is avant-prog paradise to my ears.

Latest members reviews

5 stars This is a very engaging album, that, to my mind, is a bit underrated... There is a rather dry production, which is usual for Thinking Plague... The vocal performance is adequate to exceptional... The vocals are in the mix as another instrument.... Compared to the later Thinking Plague albums t ... (read more)

Report this review (#774173) | Posted by gazagod | Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 'In This Life' is the 3rd album by Thinking Plague. In many ways this represents a crossroads in TP's career. Some components are ending now but on the other hand, new things are starting to happen. In a way, this was the last album for TP in their incarnation as a band during the 80's. A band i ... (read more)

Report this review (#156904) | Posted by ShW1 | Friday, December 28, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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