Land of the Blind, by Half Past Four
Suggested by Paul Wray
Over the past seventy days, I’ve written over two hundred reviews.
As you’ll appreciate, with such a gruelling schedule, sometimes I have to shake things up and try something different to keep my energy levels where they need to be. So I’ll sprinkle in some ludicrous metaphors, or shoehorn in a tenuous Dad Joke, or share some more personal intimacies. It’s fun, trying out new things, and totally in the spirit of this project.
For my review of a twenty-six minute five-song Prog Rock EP, I’ve chosen a central conceit: I’ll write the meat of the review in the twenty-six minutes it takes to listen to the EP from start to finish. Each paragraph will discuss a single song. In a sense, I’m live-tweeting the album.
So! Synchronise watches… 3… 2… 1…
Mathematics begins with a twinkling guitar, leading into a gently and almost instructional female vocal. There’s a mellifluous quality to the strings and harmonies, underpinned with the stuttering drums that are so rife in the Prog Rock genre. The song feels sectional, with understated Rock a la Pink Floyd alongside some trilling flute work and hypnotic guitar soloing. Even when the music builds to an instrumental crescendo, it feels subdued and innocent, and when the full complement of male and female vocals take the stage, there’s a childlike wonder at play. It’s Prog Rock sang by Rod, Jane and Freddie.
Mood Elevator is a much different kettle of fish. The drums and guitar drive from the very start, bringing a feeling of espionage and secret agency. It’s exciting stuff… before it pares back into the frankly bizarre ramblings of a Frenchman whispering about his dog peeing in a lift. Again, the harmonies for the chorus refrains are beautiful, building us up before dropping back to the basement oddness of the low-rent Parisian Frank Zappa clone.
Toronto Tontos is the most Prog Metal of the EP so far. It kicks off with some French Acapella before transitioning into a distorted power riff that’s matched in pace and tempo by chopped Russian spoken-singing punctuated by literal random sounds. Ducks quack, horns blare, dogs bark. It’s a John Shuttleworth’s Casio Masterclass.
One Eyed Man is my personal favourite, with a straight-up Blues-based riff that’s tempered and filigreed with some fantastic musicianship from every player. It’s the most layered and intricate sound thus far, with a jabbering piano bringing a clownish, comic feel to the track. This absurdity is heightened by the stretched jollity of the vocals, conjuring images of They Might Be Giants at their ridiculous best. As the song crests the Peculiarity Event Horizon, it becomes fractured and menacing, before slowing down to a crawl, tempting us with a simple piano, then kicking all the musicians down the stairs and into a swimming pool. Wonderful.
The final track, Mirror Eyes, is the least madcap of the quintet. Its tasty piano dances across a smooth and blended sigh of a song, which picks up the pace at the midpoint when the freeform jazz solo matches the manic buzzing of the twitter-clapping drummer. While each song on Land of the Blind offers a fresh and intricate take on the genre, Mirror Eyes and Mathematics top-and-tail the piece as a pair of reflective bookends. There’s a sense of euphoria in both, with the trilling guitar solos bringing an exultant Bill and Ted style sheen to the whole affair.
Aaaaand… Pencils down!
Phew, that was fun. It ended up a little longer that the rest, surprisingly. My muse is obviously powered by Prog. Good to know.
I really enjoyed Land of the Blind. It’s quirky and refreshing, and surprising at every step. I’ll offer it a fine 8/10; if you’ve a spare twenty-six minutes, it’s worth a closer look.
(Sarah was listening too. She absolutely hated it. As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)