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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Watch

Vacuum

Review by Josh Turner

 Like Selling England by the Pound, Vacuum is the kind of album that you need to revisit many times over in order to gain a full appreciation of it. I recall giving this album a listen and putting it aside for a very long time. When I came back to it, I couldn't figure out exactly why it didn't grab me the first time around. Now I've gotten the bug after this unplanned and unintentional vacation away from it. Give it enough time to incubate and the infection will spread freely. At this stage, it's way too late to inoculate myself against this particular strain of music. The only chance I ever had of dodging the disease was to avoid it completely. Unfortunately, it's much too late for that and the music is way too good to pass up. It's worth the risk, but keep in mind, you too will find yourself recovering from a melodic malady if you decide to give this disc a try. Give it a listen and it's only a matter of time before you get down with the sickness.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hills
It's hard to see ahead as these hills don't have eyes. There is very little viscosity in the atmosphere that surrounds this song, but still there is no telling what lies over yonder. The vocals are stripped down to their skivvies. The piano takes the daintiest steps across frosty fields on a night that is particularly nippy.

Damage Modes
This one charges into an empty intersection with the fiery fumes of a hulking sports car. Once the gas is engaged and the throttle is popped, a pungent rubbery odor escapes from skids marks. Concrete and tires are mashed into one another creating a smell that is strong and overpowering. It will send the itchiest tingle through the nostrils. The engine calms down and we reach a cruising pace. At this moment it becomes apparent this group is heavily influenced by the motor crew of Genesis. It's like a reunion from all the former members as they whip around this track. Simone's vocals are quite close to those of Peter Gabriel. It's odd to hear this classical approach interlaced with modern heavier-handed antics.
Wonderland
This song is similar fare to the last, but it's more poetic. There is much less meat on its bones.
Shining Bald Heads
Like "Damage Modes", this is like an old Genesis song tuned up for the current times. After drinking a can of Red Bull, the pianos get an extra kick of energy. It's almost as if they brought back the original Genesis line-up and then replaced Tony Banks with an illustrious Elton John. For those who find the prog rock classics to be too dull, this could be that crossover song to pull you over to the other side. Be sure to bundle up. The chorus is catchier than a cold on a chilly winter day.
Out of the Land
The autumn leaves do a dance on this golden pond. The light twinkles through the branches and form abstract shapes upon the water. It's quiet and calm with the subtle noises of nature. The keyboards chirp like cicadas while Simone hoots like a Great Horned Owl. This song drips like dew upon the windowsill and sways like trees roused by the faintest breeze.
Goddess
This track has two parts that work as counterweights to one another. It rocks in one direction then swiftly swoops in another. The composition is similar to the music found on IQ's Dark Matter. It mixes bouncy beats with ones that are incredibly jagged. Listening to this song, you'll become one of the bobble heads you pick up at the ballpark and it plays at a pace similar to America's preferred pastime. Speaking of favorites, this song is my number one choice off the album. It's an exhilarating experience being kept off guard by the passive parts then shaken awake by several unexpected free falls.
The Vacuum
Part A
While none of the pieces are overly long, the album seems follow a consistent pattern. Here all the best schemes come to fruition and it does so in the longest piece. This is a great demonstration of their songwriting abilities. It reminds me of Genesis certainly, but I also hear Pendragon and IQ prevalent in the mix. There is also the slightest trace of Pink Floyd, Alan Parson's Project, and Queen. I like how it goes from soft acoustics to bombastic symphonics. It is surprising how it rocks out in a number of places. Like the previous track, they should stick with the durable design of these concluding pieces.
Part B
The markers in this chemical compound are almost identical to the last. You'd be hard-pressed to even know we've switched tracks. While the last one brings us to the top of hill, this one takes us whizzing toward the ground. It works wonders on the earlobes and it's an exceptional ending. If you started this epic endeavor feeling empty inside then "The Vacuum" will surely fill the void.
 
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