Map of the Past
Review by Alison Henderson
It Bites first exploded onto the British music scene back in the 80s, when, having formed in 1982, they had a huge commercial hit with their second single, the anthemic “Calling All The Heroes” four years later. That piece also appeared on their first album The Big Lad in the Windmill. These both established them as a top notch rock band with progressive leanings and they followed them up in quick succession with albums Once Around The World, which tapped into their proggier leanings and Eat Me in St Louis, for which they adopted a far rockier feel. The departure of Francis Dunnery, their iconic guitarist, in 1990 left the band in limbo. Replacing him with Lee Knott during the early 2000s, they were unable to recapture their earlier glories. But in 2006, guitarist John Mitchell was enlisted, having played in Kino with both drummer Bob Dalton and keyboard player John Beck. However, a final change of personnel came about when original bass player Dick Nolan left and was replaced with Lee Pomeroy, who has recently worked with both Adam Wakeman’s Headspace and Steve Hackett. Together, they issued their fourth album Tall Ships in 2008 to much critical acclaim.
Now Map of the Past has taken It Bites’ body of contemporary work, best described as “prog pop,” to a completely new level and without a shadow of doubt, this beautifully conceived and packaged album will be on many “best of 2012” lists at the end of the year. This is also the band’s first concept album inspired by a sepia photograph of a man in military uniform that Mitchell found in his adoptive family home in Cornwall. This gentleman had been the source of much family disruption 100 years ago when the photograph was taken, so the album’s theme is about how that generation dealt with emotions such as love, jealousy, loss and regret all set against a 21st century landscape.
How this is conveyed is through a series of closely linked songs, each portraying a different mood and emotion that not only relates to the characteristics of the age 100 years ago but also brilliantly harnesses the spirit of here and now. Not only that, the production by Beck and Mitchell, the album’s main songwriters, is totally precise so that absolutely nothing – neither in the instrumentation nor the structure of the songs - is wasted within it.