Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
In This Life
Genres: Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
Listen to Samples
Proof that rock music can be High Art
A. Temple | Ann Arbor, MI | 08/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What to say about my favorite rock album of all time? Well, for starters, it sounds a little like a cross between Henry Cow's _Western Culture_ and Gentle Giant's _The Power and the Glory_. Unusual meter and rapid time signature changes abound, and the harmonic language is essentially that of classical music from the first half of the 20th century. The instrumentation is basic rock band + piano, clarinet and the occasional subtly-used synthesizer. The songs are catchy, melodic, and not particularly tonal. Most importantly, the whole album has a feel of inevitability, like the music could not have turned out any other way.For those of you familiar with the band's other releases, this is the most solid compositionally -- not a single bad track -- and the most restrained. This is not to say that the music here is low-intensity, because it's certainly very driven, concentrated and often anxious music. However, you won't find the overdone proggy synths of _In Extremis_ here, the mind-bending eclecticism of _Moonsongs_, or the all-out weirdness of their self-titled debut album. TP are still "weird", of course, but they seem more comfortable with their weirdness here. The album generally feels more "chamber-y" than their other releases, and the mood is less overtly dark. Also, for those of you who found Deborah Perry's vocals on _In Extremis_ flat, you probably won't feel the same way about Susanne Lewis.About the songs themselves: the album proper consists of seven of them, centered around the 11-minute "Organism". Based loosely on a phrase from their earlier "Etude for Combo", this song starts out with a bit of minimalistic-sounding percussion, but quickly changes after a few seconds into a 7/8 vamp in the bass. As the drums enter in 4/4, an electric piano and Fred Frith guesting on guitar join in, getting gradually more and more frantic, dissonant and angular until suddenly everything but the drums (now in 7/8) drop out instantaneously. Then comes the snaky vocal line, based on 014 trichords, which is so compact that the upward leap of a perfect fourth on the word "naked" feels more like a seventh or an octave. I won't describe the whole piece, but it's got an amazing ending: several minutes minutes of the opening minimalist percussion, now reduced to one note, alternating measures of 4/4 and 5/4 as the tension built up in the beginning slowly releases. (Incidentally, it beats the pants off of its successor "Les Etudes d'Organism," the rather silly centerpiece of _In Extremis_.)The rest of the songs are also incredible, from the octatonic "The Guardian" (in verse-chorus-verse form!) to the catchy opener "Lycanthrope", which features modal melodies over chromatic accompaniment, a la Bartok. "Run Amok" is the shortest song--a sort of hyperkinetic klezmer from hell, which contains Susanne Lewis's only note of vibrato, used to amazing effect. "Malaise" is a dark, ponderous song that reminds me of the Art Bears, and "Fountain of All Tears," the only song in 4/4 all the way through, sounds like a twisted cross between Radiohead and the Essex Green (although of course neither existed when _In This Life_ came out in 1989).And then there's "Love", my other favorite song on the album... Like "Malaise", it's a heavy slow song. Not heavy as in hard rock heavy, but as in heavy drums and a "loping" feeling to the music, as if the music can't quite support its own weight. It starts out unassumingly, but soon goes into vaguely indie-rock spoken vocals and one of the most powerful atonal rock-outs I've ever heard. But even then, the song's barely started. When the opening comes back, the vocal line is accompanied by stacked dissonant chords reminiscent of the middle section of Gentle Giant's "Proclamation" -- a moment that always makes my hair stand on end. Once again, describing the entire song would be excessive, so I'll just let the ending surprise you. :)Oh, and the bonus tracks. They don't really add much to the album per se. "Moonsongs" is a great song, but the mix on _Early Plague Years_ seems more energetic. "Possessed", from their first album, was just a flawed song to begin with, although it has great parts. But never mind that -- _In This Life_ as an entity seems to end with "Fountain of All Tears" anyway. And as a seven-movement piece of music, it ranks up there with some of the great music of the second half of the 20th century."
Avant-prog for you.
Lord Chimp | Monkey World | 03/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is not much one can add to the *EXCELLENT* review below. It describes the music perfectly. I would just like to add this is an excellent introduction for those interested in the world of avant-prog. Thinking Plague is a brilliant art-rock band influenced by the Rock-in-Opposition movement. Just as prog is a genre most people won't ever "get" (as in understand), RIO is something most prog fans won't even appreciate. Thinking Plague is basically a diverse rock band with a wealth of modern classical elements. Major convolution, hypnotizing time changes, and plenty of atonality are some characteristics of this album. However, I find it very catchy and approachable despite its complexity. Melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically it is utterly sublime.People throw around the word "prog" which is fine, but it should be mentioned that this doesn't sound at all like Yes or ELP. This carries on the RIO ethic rather than re-exploring past progressive accomplishments.Definitely check it out if you want something different. If by chance you already enjoy this kind of thing, you absolutely MUST pick this up. _In This Life_ is a work of pure brilliance and the best album in my collection of anything that might be called "avant-prog". Some other good modern avant-prog artists to check out are the 5uu's (the album _Hunger's Teeth_), the Motor Totemist Guild (_City of Mirrors_), and U Totem (s/t release). For something *really* challenging, try Henry Cow's _Western Culture_."
What the fu...........??
Chris 'raging bill' Burton | either Kent or Manchester, United Kingdom | 07/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first album of its kind that I've ever heard. I'd heard about Thinking Plague and avant-garde in general, but until this album I'd never heard it. What awaited me was something I couldn't believe. Chaotic and atonal, this music is not for the faint of heart. Its edgy - hard to listen to yet hard to ignore. But despite the complex arrangements and bizarre melodies, there is a catchiness to the music. This isn't simply wierd and complex for the sake of being wierd and complex - Thinking Plague have still put songs first. These pieces are still constructed as songs, the music still designed to be listened to.Describing their sound is hard because I honestly can't think of anything I can compare it to. Others might, but their CD collections are different to mine. Take any instrument and play two notes next to each other together (F and F# will do). Sounds pretty hedious, doesn't it? Now, take this mismatching of notes and spread it throughout an album and you sort of have what this album sounds like. Edgy, atonal and a couple of other adjectives I've probably used already. That's the best I can do.But that doesn't mean there is no feeling. The music does sound somewhat raw, which adds an aggressive and energetic feeling to the music. Susanne Lewis' vocals are simply perfect - unlike everything else here they sound somewhat conventional, which is probably a good thing since they bring something easier to identify with. That said, they do have child-like feel to them, which certainly adds to the frequently eerie atmosphere the album holds.I wouldn't recommend In This Life to just anyone. I expect (and probably the band expect as well) that many people will have no use for this whatsoever. But those who are looking for something bizarre, original, unique and dark and have a lot of patience (although I found this grew on me quicker than I expected) should definately look into getting this album."