Esoteric Antenna 2013
When you think progressive rock has died, along come a band who breathe a sweet collective soul into it.
There’s no atonement for neo prog sins: most of the genre valets have long lost the art of building from original elements and thrive on IKEA-like assemblage without ever taming their vain ambition. None of which applies to this trio: with their CV including GREENSLADE, IONA and CUTTING CREW, keyboard wiz John Young, bassist Nick Beggs and drummer Frosty Beedle don’t have to prove their credentials in the field, and here their virtuosic skills serve the melodies, not cerebral urges. None of the five epics which coalesce into the band’s self-titled debut feels long, and it’s not only the perpetual motion that keep the ear pricked, but pop sensibility honed by Beggs and Young in the company of, accordingly, Kim Wilde and Bonnie Tyler, so vocal harmonies are as important a part of “Lifesigns” as instrumental prowess is.
The filigree delivery is never to the fore on this album, though, so there’s a counterbalance to Young’s fiery ivories in “At The End Of The World”, his soloing set against the piece’s mainstream shimmer. In the same vein, the rhythm section injects a pulsating buzz into “Telephone”, yet it’s glazed with mellifluous, sun-kissed singing and Jakko Jakszyk’s six-string strata. Elsewhere, the many layers of “Lighthouse” pile up very unintrusively, its synthesizers and piano enlivened with Steve Hackett‘s guitar gilding that switches to acoustic mode for “Fridge Full Of Stars”, where Thijs Van Leer’s airy flute ups the level of magic.
It’s refined prog on all fronts, as allusions to the classic ’70s era are strewn generously throughout – hear tentative, tongue-in-cheek quotes from GENESIS and YES here – yet the past can’t obscure the beauty of the new ensemble’s crystal, if well-grounded constructions. “Carousel”, the heaviest piece on this admirable puzzle of a record, might also be the most luminous of all in its concerto scope, and that’s exactly the optimism that LIFESIGNS are about. Prog is very much alive, then.