A treatise on life from THE TREAT leader expanding his method and palette.
Like a true bandleader, Mike Hyder is a team player but, over the course of THE TREAT’s quartet of albums, he seemed to have been hiding two ambitions: to come forward as a guitar player and to make a concept record. Cue “Craftsman,” in some way a logical progression from 2012’s "Lepers & Deities", which takes its tentative gravity onto an entirely different terrain. There a line runs between Hyder’s collective effort and a personal agenda – in the same way as it does between Ian Anderson and JETHRO TULL, and such an association looms large here, because for all the seriousness of the four tracks on offer, it’s difficult not to think that Mike is actually taking the piss out of the whole art-rock thing, with social satire thrown in for good measure.
All of this, and much more, is accumulated in the multiple parts of “The Organisation,” a 19-minute-plus punch at Open University, a gloomy, slowly thickening anti-utopia with vocals a shining beacon to show a way into the belligerent, fervent rave-up and back again. Yet the start of it all is the title track which subtly welcomes the listener to the axeman’s creative nightmare and lazily, over acoustic strum and occasional power chord, relates a from-the-stage view at his art, referring to troubadours and minstrels, yer olde-days bringers of fun and pun. Plugged into tradition, the Englishman adds wah and wail to his plea for attention, before the six-string melancholy and a catchy riff draw one in, and “The Rock” offers Laurel Canyon-esque harmonies and country picking as well as a steel guitar caress that hardens and sways for a series of solos until the anxious romanticism sets in.
But then “Eden” pours a dose of intellectual acid in a soft aural drink of the song, where an eagle can easily turn into ego only to fly nevertheless to a handclaps-helped Neverland. As a result, the album offers not an easy, although extremely interesting, trip. It’s a little scary, yet there’s the thrill of the craft. Ambitions fulfilled and mission accomplished.