Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise, by The Dear Hunter
Suggested by Matt Smith
If anything has been more knowingly constructed to make my sphincter twitch than this bloody album title, I don’t want to know.
This is Act Four. I’ve not heard Acts One to Three, and who the hell knows how many more acts there have been? After the colon, we get the kicker… Rebirth in Reprise. That’s a contender for the ponciest title I’ve reviewed thus far, and I reviewed Architecture and Morality. The cover is ludicrous too: two entwined treehouses and what is either a drooping plague doctor or a Goth Noseybonk.
This nonsense has Concept Guff written all over it, and Google confirms my suspicions. The Dear Hunter (The Dear Hunter!) are an American Progressive Rock band that have released seven albums to date, with a eighth on the way. They apparently love a Concept Album, and a full five of their releases making up five “acts” of a six-act Concept Project of Concept Albums.
That’s right. Conception.
According to Wikipedia, Act 4: Rebirth is Reprise follows the conclusion of Act III: Life and Death, in which the protagonist assumes the identity of his deceased half-brother after the resolution of the First World War. Pretty sure someone’s been watching Downton Abbey, because that was definitely a plot in one episode.
I fired it up, crossed my arms and pursed my lips. This crap would have to be something special to wipe the sense of smug from my lips.
Rebirth starts with some excellent harmony work over strumming guitar. The voices at play here are assured, especially the lead. Lyrically, it’s waffling on about roots and weeds and vines and stuff, but it doesn’t really register as anything conceptual so it doesn’t really matter. I guess that without the previous three acts of relevant connection, the music stands alone.
And what music!
After the sweet and steady start, Rebirth mutates into a fully orchestrated cinematic score, full of whimsy and wit. It’s pure pleasure, exciting and effervescent, and it skips straight into another excellent song, The Old Haunt. This track is uptempo pop prog in its finest form, full of smiles and energy. It builds to a soaring chorus before reclining back into a smooth groove. There’s an exultant feel, which continues into Waves and beyond. The fourth track, At the End of the Earth, is a more restrained affair at first blush, but the instrumental and vocal layering help swell it to a powerful centre, before it fades down to a piano organ outro full of melancholy beauty.
At this point, I’m hooked, and hooked deep.
I loved every second of this album. Each song is intricate, passionate, delicate, thundering, beautiful, whimsical joy. My standout track could be literally any one of the full fourteen, though I’d choose the jaunty Jellyfish-style jollity of The Squeaky Wheel today. Tomorrow it might be the galloping A Night on the Town, or the funky King of Swords (Reversed), or the pulsing synth into and bowed strings of Wait.
Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise gets a straight 9/10, not close. Fans of intelligent orchestral prog should devour this with delight. The Dear Hunter are top of the Things To Do Once This Project Is Done list.
Prog rock Concept Albums?! Who knew?