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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Parlour Steps

Ambiguoso

Review by Gary Hill

With Ambiguoso Parlour Steps have given us a disc that’s catchy and yet unusual. There’s only one song here I really don’t like and most of this stuff is exceptional. It certainly falls into the alternative rock/pop category and is a strong offering.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Only Mystery
Percussion leads off the festivities and then we are brought into a cool retro tinged musical journey. The chorus on this is more modern and has a great alternative rock (almost prog rock) texture. There’s a cool rockabilly meets punk grind later in the track, too.
Hot Romance
Bouncy modern alternative rock meets pop and psychedelia in this cool jam. There’s a bit of Devo in here, but there’s also a little 1960’s San Francisco. The bridge in particular has a lot of that psychedelic sound.
World As Large
This is a bit more stripped down. It’s definitely got a retro rock element to it, but perhaps it also has more of a modern alternative rock feeling than the cuts we’ve heard so far. The powered up chorus reminds me Smashing Pumpkins just a bit for some reason. The extended outro is quirky and fun.
What the Lonely Say
I can hear a lot of Porcupine Tree in this. The mode here is much more in a pure modern alternative rock styling, but there are definitely musical connections to Steve Wilson’s outfit. The backwards tracked sections are particularly cool.  
The Garden
The falsetto that starts really grates on me. The banjo that joins and helps to create the song proper is an intriguing touch, but overall this one just doesn’t sit well with me. That falsetto just tears at me and the music seems to add to the annoyance factor. I’d consider this one a “pass it by” cut. 
Gargoyles Passion
A slower, balladic cut this is dramatic and a sharp contrast to the number that preceded it. The vocals are very powerful here and this has an almost progressive rock feeling to it in many ways. I absolutely love the vocal arrangement on the bridge. This is definitely one of the highlights of the disc and possibly my favorite cut here. Interestingly at five minutes forty one seconds in length it’s also the longest track on the CD.
Thieves of Memory
The stripped down motif that starts this reminds me of The Lords of the New Church’s “Gun Called Justice.” They use this sparse stying for the first verse and then add harmonica and other elements as they carry on. It’s catchy, bluesy and also calls to mind old school Rolling Stones quite a bit. There are also some jazzy moments here. It gets very powered up as it carries on. This is another highlight of the disc. 
The City You'd Move To
A mellower cut, this is bouncy and catchy. It’s got quite a bit of old school psychedelia in its mix, but also a good chunk of modern alternative rock/pop. 
Haunt the Park
This is a good alternative rock cut. It’s just not all that special. I like it, but it’s kind of a little generic. That means it’s not one of the better cuts here, but it works well nonetheless. 
There But For The Grace
Here we have a mellower piece that’s definitely more exceptional than the previous one. Some might object to the lyrics, but this is a great balladic piece of music with definite world music influences and some serious style.
Blazing Light
They bring this in with one of the most powered up arrangements on the disc. It’s another cool alternative rock number and, while a bit generic, is a cool rocker. I hear some of that Smashing Pumpkins sound on this one. There is a great segment where they strip it way down and then bring it gradually back up.
A Pagan and a Cook
There’s more of a world music element to this one. It’s a cool little rocker that’s got a few twists and turns. It’s one of the proggier cuts on show here and while perhaps not the most obvious choice to close the disc, works pretty well in that slot. There’s a cool false ending with a klesmer jam that actually serves as the outro – and it’s a nice touch.
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