Mew: And the Glass Handed Kites
Mew have been tipped as one of the ‘new progressive’ bands who take influences from 70s progressive rock and make them relevant to the 21st century. Unfortunately the only ‘prog’ thing about this record are the wierd song titles and incomprehensible lyrics. Musically the progressive influences are so diluted they might as well not be there. What we do get is a whole load of generic indie-style jangling guitar (I hate that style of guitar playing) leavened by very occasional prog-style keyboard flourishes. A couple of beautiful soaring vocal lines rise above the jangly morass, but it’s not enough to save the album. For my tastes at any rate, this one’s something of a dud. Serves me right for trusting the judgement of the rock critics of The Guardian. I’m half convinced that they just read the lyrics booklets and never bother to listen to the actual records.
Riverside: Second Life Syndrome
Poland’s Riverside most likely aren’t even on radar screen of the indie-obsessed Guardian scribblers, but unlike Mew, they’re the real thing. I’m writing this on a wet and miserable morning in Manchester, and the music seems to be a perfect fit to the weather. Some of the cold and bleak soundscapes evoke what I imagine Poland must be like in the depths of winter. The guitar-driven music is reminiscent of some recent Porcupine Tree, although they’ve enough of their own identity to avoid becoming a simple pastiche. I can also hear echoes of a stripped-down Dream Theater in places. Piotr Grunzinski’s masterful guitar playing defines their sound, all angular riffs and fluid soloing; no indie-style jangling to be heard. It’s a perfect match for Maruisz Duda’s somewhat angst-ridden lyrics. We could probably have done without the rather clichéd ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ intro to the 15 minute title track, but that’s a minor quibble, it’s only a minute and a half of their whole album.