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A Formal Horse

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A Formal Horse Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower album cover
4.06 | 48 ratings | 2 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2019

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Magazine Zooey Deschanel (2:08)
2. Bird (2:35)
3. I Just Called to Say I Like You (3:49)
4. Petroleum (2:55)
5. Boarded Doors in Bedford Place (1:19)
6. Bee (3:40)
7. Last Track on Side Fun (3:40)
8. Coda (1:46)
9. Lonely Doe Young Doe (3:47)
10. Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower (2:05)
11. Unison One (1:56)
12. Commons (3:22)
13. Cherub (2:07)
14. Unison 3 (3:58)
15. Boarded Doors Reprise (0:48)
16. Anyway (3:25)

Total Time 43:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Hayley McDonnell / vocals
- Benjamin Short / guitars, vocals
- Russell Mann / bass
- Mike Stringfellow / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Julia Soboleva

CD Self-released (2019, UK)

Digital album

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy A FORMAL HORSE Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower Music

A FORMAL HORSE Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower ratings distribution

(48 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

A FORMAL HORSE Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars The band "A Formal Horse" from the United Kingdom has been dilly-dallying around since 2014, and in that time has released 4 EPs. Finally, after 5 years at this, they released their first full-length in November of 2019, the intriguingly titled album "Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower". Over the time they have been together, only the lead singer has changed. The band currently consists of Hayley McDonnell (vocals), Benjamin Short (guitars and vocals), Russell Mann (bass), and Mike Stringfellow (drums).

The album has an interesting track listing with 16 tracks in all. The overall run-time is around 45 minutes. None of the tracks quite reach the 4 minute mark. Sound intriguing? It should, especially with tracks that are named "Magazine Zooey Deschanel", "I Just Called to Say I Like You", "Last Track on Side Fun" and, of course, the title track. The band calls itself an "avant-rock quartet", but the music tends to be a blend of Belew-era King Crimson with the thoughtful, yet heavy attitude of Black Mountain. You will see what I mean as the music shifts around as it moves from one track to another, connecting the tracks together, but making it very obvious when one song changes to another. There are often some excellent complexities in the rhythm and heavy guitar exchanges that makes it obviously progressive. The songs, even though they are short, are well developed and each one has a lot going on in it, but each single track is focused on its own purpose, not a miasma or confusing mish mash of style so much in each individual track, yet there are still changing moods and meters within most of them.

Haley's vocals are quite good and fit the musical style perfectly. She is able to adjust her style and sound to match the ever changing musical style of each track. Just listen to "Bee", the 6th track, and you'll also hear her amazing phrasing and range as she jumps smoothly around octaves and interesting intervals with the grace of Joni Mitchell. Sometimes, its hard to believe that the instrumentation is as basic as it is; guitar, bass, drums. Regardless of that, the organic, dynamic sound is quite impressive, spot on, and often can fool you into thinking the band is much larger than what it is.

The melodies for the tracks are not made out of the typical "verse-chors" structure, but are more complex than that, yet they remain fairly accessible, kind of. The angular guitar work can explode at a second's notice into a complex KC-like pattern with the impossible meter shifts, only to soon pull back to a more melodious style, but the overall feel is a little on the dark side, yet that often shifts also. A great example of this is on the dynamic track "Lonely Doe Young Doe" that manages to touch on all of their styles while staying cohesive in a track that still manages to stay under 4 minutes. If you like what you hear there, then you will love the rest of the album. It is probably one of the most amazing individual songs of the year.

Ok, so we have established that the guitarist and the vocalist are amazing, what about the rest of the band? Take a listen to the title track and the following instrumental "Unison One" and even it's sister instrumental track "Unison 3", and you will get an idea with the complex bass and drum lines that support the crazy guitar, and you'll be convinced that this is a band that knows who it is and what they are doing. It's quite a display of dynamic mastery and technical prowess. And, what a way to end the album with the explosive "Anyway". Just perfect!

So, you can chalk up another one for the best albums of 2019, at least for my list. It is definitely one of the best that I've heard, and I've heard a lot of them this year. Those that loved the sound of "Bent Knee" on their recent release "You Know What They Mean" should also be impressed with this release. Think of that album with even more dynamic and mood shifts with many leanings toward KC's later sounds, then you'll know what you will be getting into with this amazing album. This is definitely another band to watch out for. Don't miss this one and make sure to leave room for it on your best of 2019 lists, because I think a lot of people would be impressed with it. As much as I try to not get emotional over an album while writing a review, it's hard not to get excited about this one. 5 enthusiastic stars!

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Interesting and mostly delightful indie prog punk from Angleterre. I am reminded of THE CARDIACS, FACTOR BURZACO, INNER EAR BRIGADE, HUMBLE GRUMBLE, PINGVINORKESTERN, BLONDIE, THE SMITHS, MARIANNE FAITHFULL, LENA LOVICH, TRACEY THORN, and a whole bunch of late 1970s and 1980s artists of a type of music that I was not into (short, guitar- and lyric-based witty nihilist songs).

1. "Magazine Zooey Deschanel" (2:08) Nice lyric. (8.5/10) 2. "Bird" (2:35) Nice lyric. (8.5/10) 3. "I Just Called to Say I Like You" (3:49) Awesome vocalise. A top three song for me. (9.5/10) 4. "Petroleum" (2:55) (8.75/10) 5. "Boarded Doors in Bedford Place" (1:19) sounds like Tracey Thorn! (4.5/5) 6. "Bee" (3:40) like a PINGVINORKESTERN or INNER EAR BRIGADE song. (8.5/10) 7. "Last Track on Side Fun" (3:40) (8.25/10) 8. "Coda" (1:46) (4/5) 9. "Lonely Doe Young Doe" (3:47) a more sensitive, almost operatic side of Hayley. (a song about "roadkill"?!) Gets quite heavy in the instrumental mid-section. Another top three. (9/10) 10. "Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower" (2:05) (8.25/10) 11. "Unison One" (1:56) an instrumental exercise in staying together in odd and syncopated time signatures. (4.5/5) 12. "Commons" (3:22) sounds like a previous song. Great vocal with nice vocal harmonies from the background vocalists. My third top three song. (9.25/10) 13. "Cherub" (2:07) an old-style, full-length 1960s pop song. Could be a BEATLES song. (9/10) 14. "Unison 3" (3:58) more odd tempoed, syncopated rhythm play in a complex, high-powered instrumental. Nice team work! (8.75/10) 15. "Boarded Doors Reprise" (0:48) not very similar to the first. (4.25/5) 16. "Anyway" (3:25) children's playground voices open this one before guitar and metallic guitar riffs establish the song structure and pace. Hayley singing in her lower registers. What a remarkable voice. Not unlike k.d. lang. Love the "scor-PIon" shift of voice into operatic soprano. (9/10)

Total Time: 43:34

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music of a kind of Indie Prog Punk variation.

This is an album that really grows on you as you listen to it--especially with repeated listens. Hayley McDonnell is an extremely talented singer, storyteller, and lyricist (unless someone else is writing the lyrics that she's singing.)

P.S. If you like this you will probably LOVE Inner Ear Brigade, Pingvinorkestern, and Ut Gret.

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