Vol. 1, Issue #17 Sept. 15th - Sept. 28th, 2006

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

Five Years Ahead of Their Time!

This summer we saw some great progressive rock releases demonstrating that the movement is alive and well, but the revolution is obviously not being televised by MTV. The following bands are four distinct voices from different sides of progressive rock that are worth investigating.

---We’ll start with The Red Krayola’ “Introduction” (DragCity.com) The band was discovered in the late sixties while making noises in front of a crowd at a shopping mall in Texas. Though the band members had no idea how to play their instruments, they were signed instantly because of their ability to hold the audience. They were actually an experimental band that got swept up into the psychedelic movement by accident, but they more than lived up to the challenge. Their first release, “Parable of Arable Land,” was so psychedelic it was scary; the whole soundscape seemed to melt as it played on, leaving the listeners to wonder if the band was permanently damaged after such a heavy trip.

Sp here we are four decades later. “Introduction” opens with electronic farts to a spoken word piece, the subject of which is up for debate, and then an off-kilter blues guitar, accordion, and percussion starts with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” but quickly – and ironically - shifts into a freeform ode that refuses to stay in a key. “It Will Be (Delivered)” starts off as perfect hit material, but quickly adds dissonant backing vocals, and a noisy guitar solo while front man Mayo Thompson sings – painfully – at the very top of his range. “Elegy” is a quiet piece, but like the piano music of Erik Satie, the harmonies push themselves into a cacophony that is as jarring as it is beautiful.

“Introduction” is bizarre, but not inaccessible. Like all Red Krayola releases, there is an indescribable genius to it; it seems like pointless noise on first listen, but like a puzzle box, the more you play with it, the more secrets it opens.

--- Hailing from Japan, Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. have just released “Have You Seen The Other Side of The Sky?” (AceFu.com). Acid Mothers Temple etc. – and by the way, U.F.O. stands for “Underground Freak Out – is a collective that is influenced in equal-parts by sixties psychedelia, progressive rock from the seventies, avant-garde composers, like Riley and Stockhausen, and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman. There are even aspects of Hardcore in some of their most sped-up moments, like “I Wanna Be Your Bicycle Saddle.”

While the description might make it sound like an aural mess, this is actually a very cohesive album filled with musical ideas that fly by and ricochet off of one another at a breakneck pace. For example, “Asimo’s Naked Breakfast: Rice and Shine” jumps from a psyche guitar solo, with different voices singing and yelling over it, that mellows out to an early Pink Floyd sound (though admittedly the acid has been replaced by laughing gas,) that ends with a four-minute orgasm by female member, Nao.

The thirty-minute centerpiece of the album, “The Tales Of Solar Sail 〜 Dark Stars In The Dazzling Sky,” begins as a drone, but soon takes on a heroic, repetitive, metal guitar riff accompanied by a searing – and technically brilliant - feedback solo, while random electronic sounds fly from the stereo speakers like scared birds. Half-way through free horns are brought in as the even drum tempo turns into a frantic free-for-all that is too fast to have a discernable rhythm. As the horns and guitars scream, the music slows down to a steady beat with a heavy guitar riff and other worldly vocals, only to run up the next hill to a final, apocalyptic…well…freak-out. The piece ends with the feedback fading out into a beautiful rendition of the song on a single acoustic guitar.

It’s as if all post-modern music were run through a grinder and made into a new sound, yet you can hear each influence distinctly. Don’t be afraid; it’s only music.

--- Out of the Santa Cruz scene comes the blistering jam band, Comets On Fire. Their new genre-defying CD “Avatar” (SubPop.com) is made up of psychedelic freak-out music with muscular, anthem rock guitar riffs, frantic proto-punk speed, and a progressive sense of epic composition. This is not dry, Grateful Phish music, but rather a MC5-styled guitar band that takes no prisoners. Like Acid Mothers Temple, random electronic sounds are ran through the speakers just to give it that annoying edge for people foolish enough to try to trip to it.

Imagine if The Stooges decided to do extended jams! “Holy Teeth” is the best example of their style; a lean punk guitar riff leads a thrashing rhythm section while furious guitar solos and synthesizers that sound like boxed lightning layer the production. My only reservation about the band is that the album is almost too intense to a fault; the music completely overtakes the vocals at many points.

--- Meanwhile, The Lizards have taken the idea of progressive rock full circle on their new album “Against All Odds” (TheLizardsWebsite.com). Bassist Randy Pratt and guitarist Patrick Klien founded Hyperspace Records to specialize in releasing new material by classic rock artists; they have recorded Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Blue Cheer, and other psychedelic legends. They are joined by Riot vocalist, Mike DiMeo, Blue Oyster Cult drummer, Bobby Rondinelli, and as a guest on four tracks, Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes.

The result is an album that feels like it was recorded around 1975, but the maturity of the songwriting and musicianship is startling. The album isn’t a trite rehashing of the old sound or a nostalgia trip; it’s a continuation of the metal side of progressive rock, complete with clean sounding hooks, heavy blues and real strings and brass.

The opening song, “I’m No Good,” starts the ball running in the right direction; razor sharp riffs, a classic rock beat, and beautiful backing harmonies fuse into a song that would be as welcomed at a biker’s acid party as well as AM radio (circa 1975). The main thing you notice is that it’s progressive, but also a perfectly crafted pop song.

The prog rock breaks out with the nearly nine minute “Ariel/My Dark Angel”; the electric guitar solo is backed by harpsichord, then by orchestra in between the mythical images that are yelled out to the heavens. Regardless of how you think the band sounds on paper, one listen will make you a believer in it’s heartfelt, old school progressive sound.

All four albums are good indicators for the future of music. With the rock audience splintering through the web and satellite radio, more unique voices are slowly popping up. I have no doubt this is just the tip of the iceberg that will sink the mainstream, and all the major label whores are going down with the ship.

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©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.