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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

How To Win At Life

The Defilibrator

Review by Gary Hill

Let’s get this out of the way right at the start, this is only loosely prog rock, but there are enough prog elements here for me to put it into that category. If you had to really pin this sound down with comparisons I’d say a mix of Jellyfish, Queen and Pink Floyd would come pretty close. That said, the main Pink Floyd reference would come in the form of the Fender Rhodes textures that permeate a lot of the disc. The truth is this is a great, accessible disc that has a fresh sound grounded in classic rock traditions.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Peak of My Physical Beauty
A test signal leads this off, but as the sounds of a beating heart are mimicked by the percussion it seems that that test signal represented a flat line – in keeping with the album’s title. This one comes in from there with a joyful sound that feels a bit like a cross between a Dave Matthews Band and a Queen sound. The vocals tend to be a bit more along the lines of the Black Crowes. A short bridge and then a keyboard solo bring in the progressive rock side of this cut. The bridge is even stronger next time around and the guitar solo that follows has Brian May written all over it. This makes for an effective album opener.
Rebirth
They pound in with a heavy prog rock sense of pomp here. Then it drops to a bouncing sort of fun time melody with touches of Queen and other bands. A keyboard solo enters with a classic Fender Rhodes sound. As the vocals come in they have that total rock and roll approach and are woven over a stripped down straight ahead rock and roll approach. They break this one out later into a triumphant sounding more prog oriented segment and the Fender Rhodes gets another showing in the forefront. A great instrumental break later brings in more of those Queen tendencies. And we also get plenty more opportunities to hear that keyboard.
The Livingroom
This one rises gradually and tentatively with the main emphasis on the keyboards. As this moves on it takes on a bit of a bluesy ballad approach. Lead guitar soars over the backdrop created by the rest of the group in an arrangement that seems to merge the sounds of Queen with those of Pink Floyd. This short instrumental is intriguing and a nice changeup.
Calcutta
A playful bluesy guitar sound brings this one in. As the band join it begins to take on some slightly dissonant elements, feeling just a little King Crimson-like. This winds through and climaxes, giving way to a keyboard based ballad structure that reminds me a lot of Jellyfish. They eventually power this one up a bit and it’s a bouncy sort of jam that’s fun. As it intensifies and gets more complex later, this still has that same Jellyfish element, but seemingly blended with more of the Queen sounds. I’d have to say that this is one of my favorite pieces on the CD. They stay true to their roots on this one, but rework it enough to really pull a lot of drama and creativity out of it. The Queen leanings really take over at about the three to three and a half minute mark. Vocal harmonies, killer instrumental arrangements, some awesome guitar work (ala Brian May and others) and a great song structure – this one has it all.
Cancer
At just about a minute in length, this is one of those odd bouncing little numbers that Queen used to throw in quite a bit. I’ve never been crazy about this style, but it’s OK. It segues straight into the next cut.
Good News (new version)
Starting with the closing sounds of the last piece, a rough around the edges guitar sound takes over from there. The band begin working and reworking that structure to carry this forward with Fender Rhodes adding a nice touch to the mix. They eventually power it out into an energetic Black Crowes meet Queen approach. Then it drops back to a more stripped down arrangement for the verse. They move it out later in a killer instrumental segment that has lots of good old rock and roll, but plenty of prog in the spirit of ELP, Pink Floyd and others. It drops back from there to the song proper. A different progression is set into the track as the resolution segment with a triumphant hard rock texture that really calls to mind Queen a lot, right down to the vocal harmonies.
Doughboy
A unique sort of playful and retro texture opens this with keys. The vocals come over the top of this for the verse. It’s a bit like “Good News,” but with more of a rock element to it. This doesn’t wander far, but it’s an interesting little change of pace.
Give In To Love
At just under nine and a half minutes this is the longest piece on the disc. It opens with more of that Fender Rhodes sound. The guitar and rhythm section enter to bring with it a pop rock sort of Queen type texture. Somehow this almost feels like a Christmas song here. They work through several variants on the theme before the vocals enter at around the one and a half minute mark. As they do it’s over the top of a keyboard dominated ballad sort of structure. Several variants are run through without changing the overall theme. After the verse and chorus concept the guitar leads the way for a time, then they drop back to the earlier song proper section for the next vocals, but a bit more energized. As they work through this time it becomes quite powerful in its presentation. It drops back to just keys and vocals on the chorus this time around, then goes to just percussion after a bit of a crescendo. Guitar punctuates this at points and then they move it out into a new instrumental break with a guitar solo as its focal point. Even then the Fender Rhodes still pulls its own weight. The melodic lines that ensue here are triumphant and very beautiful making this feel very uplifting. I even hear echoes of The Flower Kings on this dramatic extended segment and non-lyrical vocals are thrown in over the top of this potent mix of sounds. They gradually drop back just before the seven minute mark and turn towards the next vocal segment, this time mostly just percussion (with just keyboard accents) backing the singing. When they move it out from there the arrangement is especially effective. After this final verse they take the track into another killer instrumental movement with the guitar again serving to bring the majority of the sound. It’s a great way to end the disc.
 
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