Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is This The Price We Pay For Progress?

It is a good question, never more relevant that at the moment. One thing that is quite certain is that South Yorkshire has been providing a very diverse and persuasive soundtrack recently. No sooner had the Kaiser Chiefs highlighted the slightly less salubrious side of Leeds than the Arctic Monkeys served up a fine riposte from Sheffield replete with the hazards of a night out on their town!

Leeds soon replied, on a completely different front, with the very different but equally successful sounds of Corinne Bailey Rae. Maybe Sheffield has retaliated and I simply haven’t heard about it but it is certain that Leeds has struck again!

It is rock, but not remotely like the zeitgeist tendencies of the above bands. The album Progress.Reform is quite different to any of the above and consisting of just seven tracks it might even be regarded as an EP but I see good reasons to not to do so - just for a start the subject matter is often erudite, eccentric and a world away from the modern, even if the music isn’t.
The first track, Terra Nova, is about Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1911-12 and the third track, Rook House For Bobby, is about the descent into isolation and eventual madness of chess player Bobby Fisher. This is not normal subject matter on any album and what is more they have a liking for using genuinely old recording equipment and performing live, shrouded in steam and wearing BR uniforms from circa 1960! Stainless Steel is rather different to the tracks that have come before: it starts gently, with a plucked guitar, but gradually builds – and there is more than 8¼ minutes of it in which to do this – into a rock epic of surprising proportions.

While there is, as such, no title track to this album its alter ego duly arrives at the very end and it is sung in the first person supported by a rather surprising indie backing 'choir': this song is The Beeching Report - the band is iLiKETRAiNS.

For those that like the slightly offbeat, eccentric even, this album comes highly recommended.

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