16 May 2018

Review: Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor (Released: 25th May 2018)

I think it’s safe to say that the hard-core Spock’s fans among you will already have this on back order and justly so. Probably the most beloved of all American Prog bands at this moment in time, a new release from the Beard is definitely a highlight of the Prog year….

Their 13th album (and the third to feature the magnificent voice of Ted Leonard) this is a 2-disc set with the second disc entitled “Cutting Room Floor” (make of that what you will).  The first disc kicks off with “To Breathe Another Day” which I would imagine you’re already familiar with as this is the only track that has been released so far, accompanied by a suitably off-beat video that looks like something that was thrown together in five minutes to be honest. Speaking to Ted Leonard in a recent interview, it would seem this was very much the idea of the record label (Inside Out), but it helps to highlight the underlying sense of humour we’ve come to expect from these boys – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG2J3mjnFL4

So, what of the rest of the album…..

I suppose it very much depends on where you’re coming from, if you’re totally in tune with your inner Prog child and understand the concept of Progressive music, you will so “get” where this album is coming from. Totally unpredictable in many instances, not only does the style and feel of every track change from track to track, but also WITHIN a track. You might start a track and THINK you know where it’s going, but end up being blown away at the twists and turns – think “Bennet Built A Time Machine” from the last album “The Oblivion Particle” (for example), with a few exceptions, most of the album will lead you astray in that you THINK you know where it’s going, but don’t be fooled, a very clever ploy.

My personal favourites are: “Box Of Spiders” (the first of two instrumentals, which sounds as chaotic as it actually is, but features a wealth of frenetic keys from the one and only Ryo Okumoto), “One So Wise” – SB at their most familiar (and probably my fave track), progging out like a motherfucker, the way I like ’em !! “Have we All Gone Crazy Yet” (the longest track on the album @ 8 mins 6 secs) – Anarchic and fun, a good live number that screams “join in the chorus” and the second instrumental “Armageddon Nervous” from the second disc, with some lovely interaction between Dave Meros’ bass and Ryo’s keys (part way through, I thought we’d discovered the theme from a long lost Gerry Anderson series, before it goes back to the original concept !!).

So This Is Life” – think “Submerged” complete with string quartet – a worthy single that sounds like an offcast from an unreleased Beatles album, one of the slower more “straight-forward” tracks. Ultimately, the album pans out in unpredictable style, twisting and turning to totally throw you off balance. If you’re familiar with the last Neal Morse band album “The Similtude Of A Dream”, I’m sure you’ll agree, one track could totally throw you a curved ball if taken out of context, “Noise Floor” is much the same………..

VERY much a group effort, everyone has the chance to shine and with Nick D’Virgilo back on the drum seat (purely for the album) following Jimmy Keegan’s exit, thumping bass from Dave Meros, a wealth of keyboard sounds from Ryo, sumptuous acoustic from Alan Morse, with the odd multi-guitar synergy we’ve come to expect from the SB guys and vocal harmonies to die for, the entire two-disc set oozes quality from start to finish with plenty to keep even the most peripheral of Spock’s fan happy. Sumptuous mellotron (that’s me happy then LOL) stomach pounding bass and vocal harmonies to die for, I could go on….  You may hear this album from the get-go and think you have it sussed, but predictable it ain’t. Hear one track out of context and you could rightly believe you have the track, yet alone the album, well and truly in the bag – think again Progsters, this is an album with many depths, dive in and explore, I think you’re in for a treat !!

The Progmeister