Reviews roundup – Dice ~ Mother’z Boyzz ~ Lunear ~ Fraser Edwards ~ Q-Bizm
Crazy Little Dreams & Maps For Ramona
You know the score. If it’s a Dice album I’m going to say nice things about it. And not just because (full disclosure) I get a thank you in the credits. I’m not saying it doesn’t help…
No, really, Dice are great. And as this is their 26th album there is really no excuse for progressive rock fans not having tried them out. I mean, get a grip.
Apparently, this is another sort of concept album with bandleader Christian Nóvé saying he experimented with this writing and that the music takes place entirely in a crazy dream world. Me, I’m still hearing the always melodic prog sounds with just enough spacerock hints to keep me happy. Which is what they do and what they’ve been doing since the original band got together back in East Germany in 1974.
There are still plenty of Pink Floydisms for people to hold on to while Dice conjure up some really excellent songs with “On The Trip To Mars (Dreamscene 21)” and ” X On The Other Side (Dice-Map 6)” the highlights first time out.
The latter is the epic this time out and it’s one of their best. As always, the guitar work of Peter Viertel is a sheer delight and for the umpteenth time in a row I’m telling all you prog fans to check this out.
No video so here’s an oldie
Anyone out there who misses 70’s Status Quo and 80’s Rose Tattoo? Well you can put the bottle down because here come Mother’z Boyzz from Germany to put things right.
Yes, if scuzzy blues biker rock with shuffles galore is your thing then I can guarandamntee that you are going to enjoy this. Turns out they started life as a fun side project but once mainman Wolfgang Schmidder realised that this was a Good Thing he got on with the business of rocking.
It’s no frills boogie rock with Supersuckers style gruff vocals and it’s the kind of thing that will wear a hole in your carpet if you don’t remember to keep moving your tapping foot. The opening “Pink Cadillac” is very ZZish but the delightfully named “Ice Cubes Pissin” goes full on Quo boogie.
After that it should be no surprise to learn that there is a lot of humour in the lyrics as the slow, grinding “Non Talkin’ Woman Blues” attests. An extra bonus is the Hammond organ which pops up hither and thither to add some extra sauce. And a delicious one at that. Although the core band sound great with a full on production to boot. It’s cheeky, it’s Dirty Deeds Acca Dacca and it’s a beer drinking, whisky swilling treat from top to bottom.
Curve. Axis. Symmetry
Fancy some Steven Wilson / It Bites progressive pop rock? It’s a concept album. Sold!
So album number two from French melodic progsters Lunear takes on the story of an immortal. Not Immortal. There’s none of that “I vant your blood” malarkey. No, it’s the story of someone who just lives for ever. And the big question is, of course, is it a blessing or a curse. Well I know the answer to that one and it’s obviously b). I’ve been around long enough and it’s not for me.
But that would barely make a three minute single so Lunear have expanded the concept to wonder about someone who can’t die, who ends up the last person on Earth, who survives the solar destruction of the planet and then exists in the ether waiting for another sentient life-force to emerge. If I was depressed before I’m reaching for my shooting iron now.
But musically, it’s immaculate. The basic melodies are quite pop like but the arrangements and the musical nuances are what lift it into the world of proper prog. They also throw in some alt rock influences so something like “Same Player.Shoot Again” will have you whispering Muse to yourself. A lot of the guitar work is reminiscent of Steve Hackett but if he was playing with Pink Floyd. Which would have greatly improved them.
The songs join together thematically and their are a few motifs that, on repeat plays, seem to pop up more than once. As it should be. Lyrically, there is a narrative arc and you can follow the protagonist from beginning to not the End. My favourite tune is “Earth’s End” but there’s nothing here you won’t want to hear more than once. An absolute delight.
I suppose all you need to say about the latest album from Fraser Edwards is that it features a song called “Stop Saying We Sound like Dragonforce”. And that’s before you get to “Crouching Comrades, Hidden Dragonforce”.
So I think we know where we are musically without resorting to the trope that this sounds like…you know. Actually it’s quite nice to hear someone knock a rise out themselves. I know we live in a world of de-evolution and mass insanity but if you can’t have a laugh then what’s the point. I actually remember laughter. Autumn 2016 it was.
Anyway, this fella Edwards gets around a bit. He plays in Sharky Sharky, the shark-themed rock band for children, which sounds like the Best Idea Ever as well as in power metal band Ascension and he’s also hired out his guitar to an assortment of other acts including the delicious Janet Devlin. Which shows he’s not just about the shred.
It’s been four years since his last solo album, the modestly named ‘I Am God’. And even if I can’t quite go that far he’s certainly an extremely talented guitarist. It helps that his bandmate from Sharky Shark, vocalist Rickie Carnie, has a proper power metal voice. You know the whole Helloween thing. And when it all comes together on the best songs (the Dragonforce pair, “Warzone” and especially “Ruination”) it makes for a belter of an album. I’ve also got a lot of time for Benny Hill making an appearance! Not all the songs are as good as though but it still makes for an excellent power metal listen.
So have you been waiting around for some 10cc meets Steely Dan with some hints of fusion? You have? Well you have my sympathy if you’ve been waiting for this, the second album from Italian outfit Q-Bizm.
Why? Well they decided to take a 15 year break after their debut before this extremely belated follow-up arrived. And it’s really enjoyable. For sure, the funky, jazzy grooves aren’t doing anything new. But they manage to put everything the right way round to end up with what is, in places, a joyous sound. The vocals are quite gentle and it’s left up to the instruments to make the most valid points. That comes along with some spiky guitar lines and a saxophone that sometimes blasts just when you least expect it.
Alessandro Riccucci provides the honking horn and there are also some lovely keyboard moments from Francesco Longhi especially when he brings his Hammond organ sounds to bear down on your ears. Some of the songs have quite a spacey feel which points them in a proggy direction with “Black Truck” the best of them. But if you’re looking for something to get your jazz groove on with then I can heartily recommend “Punkache”. In a couple of places they get a bit Acid Jazz in a Corduroy manner (hah!). But I always had a wee soft spot for that sound if not the hipster coffee scene that went with it.
It’s immaculately played and comes highly recommended.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton