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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Biv and the Mnemonics

The Pace

Review by Gary Hill

I struggled with the question of whether this album was progressive rock or not. Ultimately I decided that some of it was, but not enough to land it under that heading. Still, this is a great album no matter where you put it. It’s quirky, it’s fun and it’s musically diverse. I like it a lot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Pace

Folky acoustic guitar opens this. The vocals come in maintaining that folk approach, but also leaning towards alternative rock. This has an almost DIY feeling to it, but some of the guitar melodies and vocal harmonies elevate it beyond that. The arrangement gets pretty developed as this continues. There is definitely a trippy kind of modern progressive rock vibe on hand later.

Critically Cool

This starts very much like the Grateful Dead. More than anything else that jam band vibe is the dominant factor here. Still, there is a pop rock element, a bit like The Beatles or Bad Finger. At times I think of Cracker or Camper Van Beethoven here.

Rolling Deep into the Backwoods

Folky jam band sounds open this. As the arrangement builds out later there’s a soulful, almost jazzy vibe to it. Then it gets into more of an alternative pop territory. This is very much a “feel good” song.

Manifest Destiny

Harder rocking and quite proggy, this one is very much in a psychedelic rock sort of mode. There is an even harder edged section later that makes me think of Cheap Trick quite a bit.

Ain't on Our Way
With a real old time country element at play, this is another that definitely makes me think of Camper Van Beethoven. I dig the old time vibe to this and the harmonica really adds to that.
The Umbrella Song

Now, this one definitely lands in the rockabilly side of The Grateful Dead territory. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a great Spinal Tap reference in the lyrics here.

Hella

This is definitely a proggy kind of tune. It starts off in mellower territory. Then it works out later into a section that makes me think of Pink Floyd with some Beatles in the mix. There is a killer psychedelic rock turned prog segment later, too. If more of the album were like this it wouldn’t have been a problem deciding if it should fit under progressive rock. Really, the cut is pretty obviously prog, particularly when the Pink Floyd vibe returns later in the number.

The Winding Rivers of Northern California

Bouncy folk rock sounds open this. The cut evolves with that in mind. The female vocals are very much in keeping with that sound. There is a bouncy bluegrass vibe later and the slide guitar solo reinforces that element.

Ladies of the Hotel Shahil

Bouncy and fun, this is a combination of old time music and alternative pop. Later sections of this definitely turn towards progressive rock. Again, were the whole set more like this the judgment call would be easy. Of course, that would make it a less diverse set, too.

Long Arm of the Law

The lyrics here feel tongue in cheek. There’s an old time music meets Grateful Dead vibe to this. It’s a fun tune and a cool way to end things in style.

 

 
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