Earthside – A Dream in Static

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One day I wake up and I’m listening to Prog Metal.  I’ll blame Spotify for the introduction just as much as I’ll credit them for their algorithms.  There was a time not too long ago that I thought my music tastes were softening – a sudden embrace of Frank Sinatra’s 50’s and 60’s albums, a warming return to 70’s MOR pop, a growing appreciation for Americana…  earthside

But progressive rock still draws me.  Fairly bored with 2016 music, Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist places music in front of me based, apparently, on songs that I indicate I like or that I otherwise sample.  Sadly, there is no reset button, because I’m being deluged with prog rock or variations thereof, even though there’s another James McMurtry out that I’ll have to discover elsewhere.

Here’s the thing.  I used to identify with a certain amount of rage in some of the music I listened to.  The Who.  King Crimson. Music was an outlet for so many things that at the time frustrated or fascinated me to no end.  Contemplating distant death.  Future relationships and current crushes.  Anticipation of leaving home.  The desire for autonomy.  The God question.  Jerks in school.  Whatever those teenage angsts begat.  Now, years later, I can multitask on the computer, drink a double IPA, and find myself in a similar place but with entirely different frustrations… and they’re not even related to politics.  Somewhere in this blog, I tried to explain that music is what sorts my nerves and/or soothes my spirit.  I feel better having listened to it, absent any other factors.  My music collection continues to grow not just because I’m a “collector,” and not because I’m searching for something new or even for the joys that come with appreciating artists and their art – that curious creative outworking that often reflects societal values as much as it’s informed by them.

Anyway, Earthside, a band based out of Connecticut, that apparently taps the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, records in Sweden, and borrows vocalists from a number of other prog-metalish bands… all on their debut release.   Their music is aggressive, certainly, consistent with the genre, unrecognizable as a descendent of classic rock, but rather an outworking of early 70’s progressive rock that taps rage, in power chords, guitar flash, and a style of vocal delivery that works for a narrow slice of the public.  Yet the music retains the velvet glove of surprising musicality and instrumental and even orchestral varieties.

Earthside describes themselves as “cinematic.”  I’ll buy that, the shifting moods, the reach for… enlightenment, we’ll say.  And, in fact, this CD’s lyrics do a comparatively fine job of exploring metaphysical questions and doubts, fairly linear in thought as opposed to obtuse approaches favored by so many.  That said, the problem I have with this CD is with every song on which lyrics are sung.  The genre seems to demand that singers scream their angst, switch to falsettos for a lighter stanza, then find a guttural croaking when words build to something that really matters.  I guess it works.  People buy this stuff, and now so have I.

But the four songs without vocals are awesome.   Varied, reminiscent of Porcupine Tree, smartly put together, the stuff that modern progressive rock should aspire to.  For the remainder, the music is generally just as good, but not a whit of it supports a melody, a chorus, or anything other than singers extending a word over multiple bars because the genre demands that tone and lung capacity trump any clear association between the words and the way they’re expressed.  This CD would actually be stronger with prose offered for audience consideration as they listened to the the music without vocals… cinematic, right?  I guess that doesn’t sell or entertain concert goers.

Ah, well. I’ll enjoy the music and hope that they noodle over, if not Lennon & McCartney, then Genesis, Kansas, King Crimson or any other group that either planned melodies or created space for them in their instrumental passions.

Oh, and as this clocks in at just over an hour, I’m still left with over 40 minutes of music that hits the spot. 

4 of 5 STARS_thumb


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