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THE TEA CLUB

Crossover Prog • United States


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The Tea Club biography
Formed in 2003 in New Jersey, USA

THE TEA CLUB is an independent rock band from New Jersey. They are known for writing songs of an epic nature, comparative to the early progressive rock bands of the 1960's and 70's. They also incorporate elements of post-rock, alternative rock, and space rock. A major part of the band's signature sound are the dual vocals and harmonies of Patrick and Dan McGowan, as well as their usage of unique guitar chords and chord patterns, often times played in alternate tunings. Patrick and Dan also draw nearly all of the band's album and promotional artwork. The band currently consists of Patrick McGowan, Dan McGowan, Joe Rizzolo, Jamie Wolff, and Renee Pestritto.

THE TEA CLUB was formed in 2003. Between the inception and fall 2006, they independently recorded four EP's, one of which attracted the attention of producer/engineer Tim Gilles (Thursday and Taking Back Sunday). Tim produced, recorded and mixed their first full length album entitled "General Winter's Secret Museum", which was released in July 2008.

After briefly touring General Winter's Secret Museum along the East Coast, THE TEA CLUB returned to Big Blue Meenie Studios to record their second album in the fall of 2009. The album was again produced by Tim Gilles, and featured guest keyboardist Tom Brislin (Spiraling, Yes, Renaissance).

THE TEA CLUB released their second album, "Rabbit", on October 9th 2010. They spent the rest of 2010 and the majority of 2011 playing many shows along the East Coast, including ProgDay, the world's longest running progressive music festival. Reviews and articles about the band were featured in publications such as Metro Philly, Indie Music Reviewer, Origivation, and JUMP. They ended the year 2011 by playing an acoustic show opening for Jimmy Gnecco of the band Ours at the North Star Bar in Philadelphia.

In early 2012, THE TEA CLUB once again returned to Big Blue Meenie Studios to record their third album with producer Tim Gilles. Following the recording sessions, THE TEA CLUB were asked to open for the Swedish progressive rock band Beardfish for their mini-tour of the United States in May 2012.

THE TEA CLUB's third album, "Quickly Quickly Quickly", was released on November 15th, 2012 to overwhelmingly positive reviews.

-Bio by Dan McGowan, updated Mar. 2013

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THE TEA CLUB discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE TEA CLUB top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.77 | 45 ratings
General Winter's Secret Museum
2008
3.94 | 96 ratings
Rabbit
2010
4.12 | 259 ratings
Quickly Quickly Quickly
2012
4.03 | 197 ratings
Grappling
2015
4.22 | 88 ratings
If / When
2019

THE TEA CLUB Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE TEA CLUB Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE TEA CLUB Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE TEA CLUB Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
Stehm-O
2004
5.00 | 1 ratings
Love Your Enemy
2005
5.00 | 1 ratings
Clouded Gloomy Beloved
2006
3.13 | 5 ratings
The Tea Club
2011
3.50 | 2 ratings
Sinking Ship
2019
4.00 | 2 ratings
If I Mean When
2019

THE TEA CLUB Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 If / When by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 88 ratings

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If / When
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars The Tea Club is a band I consider to be some of the peak of modern prog rock, making use of subtletly and space within their music in order to make refined, yet still complex songs without ever giving into the excess that most of prog tends to fall into. In a sense they're the antithesis to another one of my favourite modern prog bands, Thank You Scientist, which display the opposite end of the scale, revelling in the frenetic technicality that much of the genre is known for. With all this said, If / When manages to surpass not only every other album this year so far (a phrase that I've said countless times, but still), but is also easily my pick for the best album this band has put out thus far. I mentioned back in my review of the album Quickly Quickly Quickly that while the album was extremely mature, nuanced and all around incredible, that I still felt as if the full potential of the band hadn't been met, despite loving how beautiful each track was being mixed in with hints of heavier, more complex material, evident in I Shall Consume Everything. The direction they then took on Grappling, in which they highlighted the more complex side of the band through the majority of it made me question the direction the band would go on from there, as while it was a superb album, it also didn't feel like the masterpiece I had expected, unlike this. What If / When does that makes it the amazing album that it is, is the way that it hones in on those softer, more atmospheric moments on previous works, and then expands upon them, taking a core aspect of their identity even further by fully realising how much potential they had in creating such sweet melodies mixed in with the aspects of technicality and exploration that prog is known for.

After a number of months without listening to anything by this band, The Way You Call immediately reminded me of one of the defining aspects of the core sound, and why it's so good, the vocals. The delicate delivery of Patrick and Daniel Mcgowan are a central element of why the band is so great in my eyes, easily some of the best prog rock vocalists in my opinion. This track also demonstrates this increased focus on the softer elements of the music, being entirely acoustic without any sign of percussion or anything of the like, just a guitar and vocalist creating some absolutely beautiful melodies. Say Yes is a much more upbeat track, also displaying a somewhat more alternative rock edge that is brought out with the guitar tone. Despite being a very approachable song, it moves from riff to riff at a breakneck pace, extremely uplifting and energetic all around, the production being extremely clean in a way where everything is distinctive and noticeable, yet not clinical in nature, creating a lush atmosphere. The use of keyboards is also of note, as while there is a general presence of it in the background in order to fill out the sound some more, it's used sparingly throughout in order to further heighten the power and energy present, demonstrating this grasp that the band has on effective use of each instrument, even a short, accessible song such as this containing layers upon layers of nuance and complexity to pick apart. If I Mean When is a more straightforward song that hinges on an incredible vocal melody, a slight echo present making everything sound downright breathtaking, the soft bassline, the vocal harmonies, the subtle additional touches of the keyboard, just everything about this song is nothing short of perfection.

Rivermen is one of the best songs on this album filled with absolute masterpieces, starting off extremely softly, seemingly similar in style to Mister Freeze, taking on a much more low key approach to provide an eerie atmosphere. I wasn't expecting the gradual increase in volume and uneasy atmosphere to culminate in such an intense climax. An electronic beat is introduced about halfway through as the drums pick up speed, an electric guitar riff slowly comes in before everything explodes, wailing guitar solos over fast paced, complex drumming, the powerful vocals solifidying the absolutely incredible performance, all making for the heaviest song in the band's discography, and one of the greatest. Came At A Loss, as expected, is great, a much more simplistic song once again, much of the appeal coming from the beautiful vocal melodies, especially of the chorus, accentuated by the incredible vocal harmonies. Sinking Ship is another pretty song, although somewhat less remarkable than everything else on here, the melodies not hitting quite as hard, although the blissful tone of it is lovely.

When going into this album, I was intrigued about the 28 minute epic at the end, Creature, as Firebears demonstrated a talent for creating long stretches of music that are amazingly explorative, making full use of the entire length and warranting being so long, something which I can confirm happens again with this one. It begins slowly, switching between vocals and acoustic guitar solos regularly, each return of the vocals bringing in slightly more depth to the instrumentals, before the bass comes in and changes up the entire melody, which turns out being short lived, as this intro melody returns immediately, this time with more focus on the percussion while everything else ens up fading out. The bass eventually comes back in and this is where the song really starts to get going, the pace now remaining faster, great interplay between the keyboard and bass being demonstrated. The song eventually fades to near ambience, the acoustic guitar picking combined with the droning electronics evoking imagery of a cave, drops of water falling from the ceiling down into puddles, while the listener is sitting down in this tranquility, completely at peace. This right here demonstrates some great experimentation and was something I did not expect to hear in what so far was a fairly traditionally proggy album in many respects. This develops into a much heavier part that has a classic rock feel to it, also being surprisingly heavy while reminding me of The Flower Kings' Don't Let The Devil in, but even more intense and amazing. This is an incredibly dense, noisy section, everything sounding distorted and fuzzy, difficult to keep track of, perfectly juxtaposing the crystal clear sound of all that came before, heightening the impact this section has. This surprise was further increased once the band went full prog metal, the fuzzy guitar solo reminding me strongly of Dream Theater, all around being something I never expected to hear in the band's core sound, but nonetheless welcome given how much it elevated what was already a promising song. I also love the use of leitmotif that the song takes on from this point forward, melodies from If I Mean When being especially prominent. The rest of the song gradually loses a lot of intensity in lieu of more understated melodies, more use of acoustic instruments being especially effective after the intensity previously displayed. To bring everything to a close, the album ends in a cyclical way, the last minute being a reprise of The Way You Call, acting perfectly as a way to close the album off. This is honestly one of the better full blown prog epics I've had the pleasure of listening to, showing experimentation without it ever getting in the way of the song's enjoyability, while also displaying the absolute peak of talent from each band member.

Overall, any expectations I had going into this album were entirely surpassed, showing the band at their most beautiful and most intense. The lovely melodies manage to be sweet and pleasant without sounding saccharine in the process, and everything within is composed to be full of detail without it being too overt. While Quickly Quickly Quickly left me with a feeling that the band still seemed as if it was just the beginning, this one has honestly blown me away to such an extent that I'm questioning how the band would go further up than from here. That's not to say that I believe this is the peak of the band, as they haven't shown any signs of slowing down since their debut, even if I did only start loving them from QQQ onwards, there was still a constant progression. I can see the band from here, even if not making something better than this, at least hitting it extremely close, and am already incredibly interested to see where the band will go from here. I know I've said this many times already, but I feel like this is it, the best album of 2019, and I'm confident enough in its greatness that it will stay there for me.

Best tracks: If I Mean When, Rivermen, Creature

Weakest tracks: Sinking Ship

Verdict: The fact that even after releasing 2 great albums (Rabbit and Grappling) and 2 outright masterpieces, The Tea Club still haven't garnered much attention is somewhat unfortunate, as they deserve so much more. I highly recommend this album to more or less anyone who's a fan of beauty in music, as it is an absolute masterpiece front to back, and will likely not stop being the greatest album of 2019 for me, despite how many other amazing works have also come out so far.

 If / When by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 88 ratings

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If / When
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Bucklebutt

5 stars Haven't been on the site to write/read and reviews in a while, both because I can't seem to find the time the time and well... I was never really good at it in the first place. Anyways, one of my favorite bands put out a new album and I truly think it's something special and worth a shout out. Let's take this song by song, shall we?

1. The Way You Call - Beautiful stage setter for the rest of the show. Daniel McGowan vocals are fantastic

2. Say Yes - Classic Tea Club. Love it.

3. If I Mean When - more straightforward little tune with some catchy hooks

4. Riverman - Slow dark and brooding piece that building into an intense rocking jam. Very awesome.

5. Came at a Loss - What a great song. Call up your local radio station and demand this hahaha. A personal favorite.

6. Sinking Ship - See above (5)

7. Creature - 30 minute epic that any proghead should be able to appreciate. One of my favorite epics out there. Easily the best 27min45sec song I've ever heard.

Give the album a shot! My personal favorite of the year so far. The Tea Club seem to be the best kept secret in modern prog and it's about time that secret got out. 5 stars.

 If / When by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 88 ratings

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If / When
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by javajeff

5 stars This is a fantastic release. Three things stand out to me on the first listen. Number one is the vocals. While Patrick McGowan on the lead vocals is superb, the backing vocals are also excellent. They did some incredible stuff layering the vocals, and even using some distorted vocals. This is not a typical step up to the mic and sing release. The compositions and song writing is the second thing that stood out. They absolutely went all out on the 27 minute Creature to satisfy serious prog ears with many changes, but also have some incredible sing along songs like If I Mean When, Say Yes, Came at a Loss. The lyrics and compositions are top notch, just like the musicianship. If / When was created with care and craftsmanship, and it shows. The third stand out for me is the production value. They have some ear candy moments where listening on headphones that is really something to take in and behold. Overall, this is a serious contender for the best album this year, and it is a masterpiece that has something for everyone. If / When is a progression forward for this very talented band. It is my favorite album from The Tea Club, and that is saying a lot with such an incredible catalog of albums. 4.5/5
 Quickly Quickly Quickly by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.12 | 259 ratings

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Quickly Quickly Quickly
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars To start off, I must say that everything about this album is stunning to me, from the compositions, to the musicianship, to even the incredible cover, which admittedly was part of the reason I was drawn to this album in the first place. The band blends the modern and classic prog together amazingly, having a very clear combination of symphonic and heavy prog, and then taking their influences to make something truly unique and mature. Each of the four songs on this album are of incredible quality, each filled with subtle nuances and beautiful melodies, backed up further by the production, which has the instrumentals all blend together in such a way that they each remain distinctive, while also providing incredible tone and atmosphere.

'Firebears' starts the album off strongly, with what is easily one of my favourite intros to any song, utilising fast paced drumming with a keyboard melody that is simply divine, already clearly displaying the way such energetic elements simply lend themselves to the particular beauty present in the album. One thing in particular that I really love about this is how despite the song being so long, it manages to all sound like one complete, coherent song, rather than a suite of smaller songs, which while I love some songs that do that, I do find it impressive when a band is able to pull off a massive epic that maintains the feeling that it is just one song. Parts in particular that I love here are the spoken word section, and the last 3 minutes, which produces a melody that simply blows me away. I'd go as far as to say that this is within my top 50 songs of all time. The middle 2 songs, 'The Eternal German Infant' and 'Mister Freeze' are both considerably less overtly complex, but both still are extremely high quality as well. 'The Eternal German Infant' features some quirky lyrics and decent melody overall. The band is more energetic and fun here, being light on the emotion and atmosphere, and instead focusing more on making something generally entertaining. I like the very strong symphonic elements present here, and the vocal harmonies being excellent. The vocals are very high quality, displaying emotion, range, and having an incredibly pleasant tone to them. 'Mister Freeze' feels like the complete opposite of the previous song, being extremely mellow and atmospheric, using the electric guitars and synths to create an amazing soundscape. The way it picks up slightly at the halfway point further improves it, in every respect, paving the way for amazing vocalisations and causing the listener to simply feel like they're drifting along with the music. 'I Shall Consume Everything' adds a significant layer of darkness and angst to their formula, incorporating slightly offputting elements such as the the three chord bassline and the gradual buildups throughout. This leads directly into some inharmonious guitar work and my favourite moment on the album, where Dan McGowan screams out "I knew you were gonna PULL THIS!" and has the song continue increasing in intensity.The album then ends with a section that progressively sounds more melancholy as it goes on, returning to the beauty that was present before.

This album is an absolute masterpiece, each of the four songs are incredible, full of subtleties and nuances, each contributing to the overall unique sound that The Tea Club has, while each having their own identity. The production is also stellar, with each instrument mixed incredibly to allow for more energetic moments without disrupting anything. The best thing is that while I find this album to be incredible, I still feel as if the band could further progress and improve, becoming even greater than this album shows.

Best songs: Firebears, Mister Freeze, I Shall Consume Everything

Weakest songs: While the album has no song that I find less than great, The Eternal German Infant is the weakest

Verdict: This album is simply incredible in basically every way to me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a prog fan, classic or otherwise, as this album will almost certainly contain something you'll enjoy

 Quickly Quickly Quickly by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.12 | 259 ratings

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Quickly Quickly Quickly
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Jay_K

5 stars This is easily one of my favorite albums of the decade.

The Tea Club truly found itself on this third studio endeavor. After having heard the previous release, Rabbit, I peeked at the track listing of Quickly Quickly Quickly and thought it might be an EP. How blissfully wrong I was! "Firebears" grabbed my attention immediately and held it for 18 straight minutes, with each subsequent song different enough from its predecessor that I remained transfixed from start to finish.

The lyrics here are intelligent and provocative. The music and vocals are passionate, diverse, exciting, and downright brilliant. The packaging, I must add, is absolutely glorious -- you're doing yourself a disservice if you merely stream or download this, because the CD's outer and inner artwork (designed by the absurdly multitalented McGowan brothers) are spectacular.

Quickly Quickly Quickly is, quite simply, perfect.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.03 | 197 ratings

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Grappling
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On Grappling, The Tea Club embrace their increasingly prog direction by kicking off in a decidedly Genesis-influenced vein, with Patrick McGowan's vocals more reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's than ever and the band likewise working in aspects of the classic Genesis compositional approach and sound here and there. As the album progresses, the shadow of Genesis lifts, so I would encourage listeners to pay attention all the way through before jumping to conclusions - The Tea Club haven't become a clone band, but they do seem to be paying a little tribute to one of their influences along the way here, but not so much as to derail them from their own distinct course.
 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.03 | 197 ratings

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Grappling
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The album first caught my attention when a review appeared on the PA homepage. It was the cover art that captured my eye. I read the review because I wanted to know if there was any good reason to bring this album art into my life. When the PA Top 100 of 2015 was up, this album grabbed my attention again as it was near the top of the list. I sampled some of the music on YouTube but wasn't convinced. But that artwork kept coming back to grab my attention. At last I relented and ordered the darn thing.

I had never heard of the Tea Club before so I don't know how to compare the music of this, their fourth album, to their previous works. But from track one, "The Magnet", I feel I can hear some Genesis, some Marillion and maybe a bit of the more serrated edge of Van der Graaf Generator. But this music strikes me as busier. "The Magnet" begins in full swing with the drums and bass holding down the fort while guitar and keyboards roam freely. It becomes as most of the album is: rather complex music. At times I wonder if any vocal melody was considered during the writing of the music or if the vocalist just had to find his own way. Whatever the case, I like the track.

Although each of the six songs have their individual introductions and musical atmospheres ("Remember Where You Where" begins quite softly; "Dr. Abraham" is very dark and ominous; "The Fox in a Hole" has a folky beginning), the music is generally complex and electric and busy. Softer sections do occur as do wilder and angular sections. There aren't so many vocal melodies, though "The Fox in the Hole" is something you could sing to. This is an album that takes a bit of growing but rewards with each subsequent listen.

I have one criticism and that is the sound quality. I find it a little dense. Loud music is often recorded densely; however, I went and checked a site that rates dynamic range of albums and found "Grappling" was rated at 05 average with a maximum of 06. This is pretty low and not good. Bad is a rating of 01 to 07; Transition is 08 to 13; and Good is 14 to 20. It's interesting to check out albums on this site because you can see how original releases in the 1980's had a decent dynamic range but later "remasters" compressed the sound and made the quality worse. It's only recently that 3rd, 4th or even 5th edition remasters have made an effort to return to a Good dynamic range. One guitarist remarked to me that he could see a good business in record companies remastering remastered albums with poor dynamic range back to their original dynamic range. Sad to say that many new releases are also compressed and dense. On their own they might sound okay or at least after the first track or two but comparing them to other albums with more DR or in some cases, just listening through to the end, and you begin to notice that something has been lost.

Dynamic range aside, the music and song-writing and performances here clearly indicate why this album did so well on PA in 2015. Incidentally, their previous album "Quickly, Quickly, Quickly" has the highest dynamic range of all their albums with a maximum of 11.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.03 | 197 ratings

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Grappling
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars

THE TEA CLUB Grappling

It's taken me a long time to get around to this late arrival to the 2015 catalog as I was fully enmeshed in trying to keep up with the new releases of 2016 before I was able to acquire this one. But time has given me a good chance to get to know this album pretty well. I'd read many reviewers commenting on the "new direction" The Tea Club had apparently taken with this album. I see it--mostly in the form of a much more present and flashy drummer and keyboard player than the last album. (Welcome Tony and Reinhardt!)

1. "The Magnet" (6:07) is a vibrant, intricately arranged song with stellar performances from all band members-- especially the way the guitars and keyboards mimic and weave in and out of each other's shadows. I love the pace of this one. A pretty-near flawless song and my favorite on the album. (10/10)

2. "Remember Where You Were" (7:43). Though new keyboard player Reinhardt McGeddon shone on the opening song, this is the one which really puts on full display his tremendous talents--layers and layers worth. The pacing of this song is a bit slow and syncopated for my tastes--or perhaps I find it difficult to match the rhythm section's play with the vocal and keyboard play. (Are they playing on the same song?) It almost has a Lamb Lies Down on Broadway "In the Cage" feel to it. (8/10)

3. "Dr. Abraham" (8:11) opens with a full low end, drumming on full display, with organ and guitars diddling in the background. When the vocals enter things cohere and then the music shape-shifts beneath. Over the course of the first two minutes I am befuddled by the sudden and, to my ears, incongruous time and dynamic shifts. The story about some kind of Doctor Abraham is told with quite some emotion--and, in the fourth minute, with two separate vocal lines going on simultaneously. Meanwhile, the heavy rhythm section and noodling organ and synths continue to play as if they are oblivious to one another. One of those songs whose choices for musical and vocal expression mystify me. The slow build from 5:00 to 6:00 is cool. The drummer is very good, but maybe a little too busy--which is a distraction for me. The "lamination" finale is just weird. (7/10)

4. "The Fox in the Hole" (4:45) opens with violin and acoustic guitars weaving a kind of medieval tapestry. Vocals soon join in--later to be joined by bass and drums and other multiple other voices. Electric guitar and organ 7 synths fill in the weave as the scattered, layered multiple vocals play around the sound field. Interesting. Adventurous. A top three song for me. (9/10)

6. "Wasp in a Wig" (6:16) opens in standard rock form with a pleasant lower register singing voice singing a fairly normal, straightforward vocal. At 1:10 the music drops and bass chord play are all we are left with. Gradually, a jazzy kind of collaboration builds before the vocals resume for a bit. A very nice drum and keyboard/synth solo ensue into the fourth minute. The vocals rejoin and sing with feeling as they are harmonized by the borther's background voice. (I've never been able to pinpoint which of the McGowan brothers is which.) Another synth solo fills a chunk of the fifth minute before a GG three-way vocal weave takes over. The final minute recapitulates the 1:10 quiet section with gentle key chords, drums and vocalise. Another top three song. (9/10)

7. "The White Book" (9:57) is the longest album on the album. As the band are fond of doing, The Tea Club use this temporal expanse to patiently explore several tangents--one full of subtlety and delicacy, the other with bombast and layers woven into one. My fourth top three song. (9/10)

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.03 | 197 ratings

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Grappling
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Bucklebutt

5 stars But good works will go unnoticed..

If you consider yourself a fan of progressive rock and you haven't checked out The Tea Club yet, do yourself a favor, stop reading this and do so.

The Tea Club sound like a blend of classics, combining the whimsicalness of early Genesis, the darker edge of King Crimson, a touch of Magma's weird beauty, the symphonic soarings of Yes, and a bit from practically any prog-rock great out there. Looking through the reviews you can see that many people detect many different inspirations, but one thing is for sure , there is a lot going on. And they manage to do all of this and still make a sound that is distinctly The Tea Club.

The Grappling is the fourth album from The Tea Club and shows the increasing progression of the band and their sound. The most notable inclusion to their sound here is the use of the keys on the album; most of their previous works are guitar centered. Their music is dense, and the addition and emphasis of keys here give us prog fans another layer of sound to chew on. You will surely hear something new each time with successive listens to the album.

I hope that The Tea Club soon gets the recognition they deserve, as one of the current best prog bands out there. I recently went and saw them live and was shocked, my friend, my wife, and I literally made up a sizable portion of the entire crowd. I'm aware that prog-rock isn't trendy, but I hope that they continue to get the support enough to continue making their unique and wonderful music.

Do yourself a favor and purchase a physical copy, the whole package oozes with creativity. A real piece of art.

My personal favorite album of 2015.

 Grappling by TEA CLUB, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.03 | 197 ratings

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Grappling
The Tea Club Crossover Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Tea's Magnum Opus to date

The Tea Club's presence in my life coincided quite directly with the arrival of multiple mid life crises. Up to around the time of General Winter things had been humming along quite swimmingly forever, then suddenly middle age events exposed just how fragile this existence is. It hasn't stopped since so maybe it never does. But it does seem that every time I've been in need there has been a new Tea arrival to grab hold of, these little musical life preservers. This time is no different. Grappling is a perfect title for the state of my life this last decade and in 2016. Once again their music opens the door to a place of imagination that allows a bit of escape...

As far as the band I also have wondered to myself the effect of the constant revolving door of musicians they've had. Not about personal dramas, or even about the challenges to live playing when people come and go, but rather about the creative process itself. What is it like to write and create with such a revolving cast of people in the ranks. From the outside it seems to affect it very little as the quality and creativity continue to impress. But I have to believe it must be more complicated than that. Perhaps chaos of that kind is a plus to the creative process of any band. The Tea Club have thrived many years despite this issue and deserve credit for perseverance in addition to the artistic merits.

"Grappling" was the hardest Tea Club album for me to embrace initially, which almost always means it will be most rewarding later-as was the case here. My initial struggle had more to do with my own circumstances than with the music, as of late I usually crave much simpler and direct payoff. With a great desire for musical relief I was instead hit by the density and drive of hurricane Grappling. I think I was subconsciously longing for a return to the shorter, more straight up, more direct immediacy of the Teas earlier days. I confess that unlike most "proggers" I personally treasure General Winter every bit as much as the more complex material, being first and foremost a rock fan. I've since realized I didn't need to worry. Grappling rocks just fine. It rocks fiercely.

Whereas QQQ had marked an uptick in ambition and scope over Rabbit, Grappling seems more in the QQQ realm but on a different path...a more interesting, more adventurous, and more sonically cleansing piece of work. The Teas no longer feel as if they are reaching for something, rather, they've grabbed it and they now sound absolutely at ease with the plane they are residing on. I feel I'm hearing more confidence than ever. If QQQ had ascended into their own "Close to the Edge" zone (titles are just for discussion of range, not comparing material necessarily) then the Teas are now firmly entrenched in a "Topographic/Relayer/Pawn Hearts" zone, poised and ready to attack. I will say there are moments on Grappling so intense that they do recall the frenzied chaos of "Gates of Delirium" jams or the dark, sinister alleys of "Pawn Hearts."

Indeed the six tracks on Grappling are the most intense and propulsive yet with new drummer Tony Davis nothing short of scorched earth in his approach. The overwhelming vibe seems to be one of wild abandon and I believe that as musicians exit their twenties there is a certain beckoning call to roar at maximum fang. Sure, 40 and 50 year olds occasionally roar but there is no authentic substitute for youth. Not to my ear anyway. The lighter moments on the album are equally as impressive with these whimsical yet complexly woven tales, of strange things and colorful characters. Dan sounds so enthused and passionate in these moments, like a storyteller of yore, he takes on that colorful bravado in his voice which sounds a little like the actors at the Renaissance Festival, you know the ones...the guys who seek to make you look like a fool in front of your lady. You can hear the joy and confidence coming through in the vocals and the brothers truly sound as if they are channeling stories from a quest. The lyrics for each of the six stories form a conceptual work and they do not disappoint, grand tales of an epic journey of some sort. Characters striving to survive some great battle, real or psychological, mired in apocalyptic overtones? I don't know...I'm not the best at deciphering lyrics.

"Under our roof, we heard a choir / Oh to see again the choir free / And to hear again the waters sing / On pale pastures and starving streams / No signs of The King have been seen / But tonight I will be waiting alone by the sea / To read a new page in The White..." -The White Book (McGowan)

There are so many neat little curios in the bag of tricks this time around. The first three tracks have such instrumental power in the ominous, building layers of sound as well as the always-strong vocal harmonies. The Fox in a Hole introduces Jamie Wolff's strings and a bit of folk charmed melody. Amazing vocal arrangements abound in this track, pure delight to listen to and challenging to perform live I'd wager. The strings go intentionally haywire toward the end creating tension even within the ranks of the quieter song. This flavor of side folk melody returns in the outtro for The White Book, which sounds devilishly like the woodland spirit of Comus crashing the moonlit Tea Club clearing! The keyboard work in White Book deserves a mention as well. So much mood and presence is evoked by the mysterious R McGeddon. So much heart and so many fantastic worlds imagined by brothers Pat and Dan. More than ever we need a high quality pro-shot live DVD of this band in their prime. Someone in their periphery should make it their mission to make that happen, there needs to be a high quality visual document of the live Tea Club.

I'm bouncing from one tangent to another with this "review" and my apologies to the band for that--I'm not in a great reviewing state of mind much these days. I can state with ease that Grappling is the most accomplished Tea Club release to date, which is saying quite a lot. I listened with great pleasure to their four albums while writing this and the progression and musical confidence can be heard literally with each step. It is fascinating to ponder where the band goes in the future, the only thing we know for sure is that unbridled curiosity and creativity are the torches they carry in the darkness.

Grappling will go down as one of the best of 2015 without question.

Thanks to micky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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