This lot are called Trojan Horse and they do what they call “prog-rock” – an aposite description in the most part, but i’d venture they are much more than that. This is their debut album and I have to say without fear or favour it’s rather special indeed.
From the opening mise en scene of the complex and dense Mr Engels Says this listener was drawn into a magical world of sound. The band write big tunes – almost mini-playlets in each one – vital and vibrant and full of lots of clever bits that stick in your head and make you want to listen again.
Disciplining the Reserve Army starts off in metal mode and then soon morphs into Syd-like refrains over pulsating beats, counterbalanced with insistent choral parts, with gorgeous synth pads and some manic riffing leading to a whole melange of different ideas floating around. It’s like listening to the first (proper) Yes Album, or Crimson, or (proper Gabriel era) Genesis, but with a completely current sound and a hell of lot more testicular fortitude. The closing section with picked guitar and whistling synths and breathy vocals is simply beautiful.
The multi-tracked vocal opening section of Laces and Racists manages to capture the essence of progressive rock but make it a tad punky – there is so much going on here it makes your head spin. The declamatory vocals over keening guitar interweaving with a rich psychedelic sound provide a great feel. If you want a primer on what “prog” should sound like at the start of the second decade of the new century than this is the one to get. At one point it all got a bit too much for me and I had to play this track back to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. The crazy “James Brown” section at the end is just plain wacky but great.
Narration opens the pure psych drenched Bicycle Jam . This has clear references back to any number of progenitors with two wheeled modes of transport – and the kooky bits that you used to get on the old prog band albums – Harold the Barrel from “Foxtrot” comes to mind for example – but there’s a strange martial insistence about the track which takes it somewhere else as does the unexpected entry of a harmonica which then leads into a dream like sequence which is full of jazzy bits, spoken word, and some rather fine guitar. My chums who are fond of garage rock will dismiss this sort of thing as noodling – i’d say its pretty damn fine, making a nice bridge between reflective ambient soundscapes and free improvisation. At 13 minutes long it’s probably a bit much for the fan of the short song – but the series of riffs that kick in half way through is as good as “Man” at their long-form best – I also think Amon Duul must have had some sort of influence given the freedom afforded to the players to jam this out over an extended period.
After such a long track the band bring down a little with two shortish tracks. Sex and 6Eight has a lengthy intro, hard driving bass and a series of great melodic hooks with some lovely harmony singing, whereas Ballad of the Swell Mob again building slowly, has that early Floyd/Genesis feel which evokes some pastel pastoral imagery, but manages to get somewhere near “Van Der Graaf” territory with its complex riffing and laminal structure, and jazzy-free feel toward the end. There is just so much going on here that it rather takes the breath away.
The band are at their most pop-tastically potent with …And The Lights Went Down which manages to meld what appears to be a soft-rock ballad with post-rock guitar structures – this track has a light airy feel but manages to get some blue-eyed soul in there somewhere. There’s a hint of Beatles about this but it’s more than that – a beautiful tune with an awful lot going for it, and the closing section with the contrapuntal sound makes you realises you are listening to something a little more detailed than a chart tune.
Any album which has a song titled after a part of the world I live in is OK with me. There isn’t actually a real Patricroft Way as such – but there is a Patricroft (it’s part of Eccles) on the other side of the M602 from where I am penning this review, and the area has a “way” about it which seems to be picked up by this delightfully intoxicating song.
Black Russian is more traditional rock fair at the start, and sort of takes a bit of time to get going, it’s not my favourite on the album if I am honest. It gets better about half way through when it gets a bit more interesting with some complex riffing. Nice to hear a wah-wah solo in the middle as well but I think there are much better songs on the album.
The album closer Brazilian is a clear nod (to my ears) towards Mr Anderson and his crew around the time of “Close to the Edge”/”Fragile” – but with a definite “math + post = rock” edge– “pure prog for now people” as someone didn’t say once.
Wrapping it all up its a winner of an album with enough variety to tempt the most jaded audiophile into listening.
Another release from a Salford band in 2010 that the city should be rightly proud of!