Kino - Picture

Year of Release: 2005
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 200
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:58:00

The quartet of Pete Trewavas, John Mitchell, Chris Maitland and John Beck have, right out of the gate, launched themselves into the public-prog conscience. Of course, when your other - main - gig is Marillion, Arena, Porcupine Tree and It Bites, it's hard not to draw attention to yourself. And a performance at RoSfest in 2005 probably didn't hurt the profile any, as at the time Picture had only been out a few months (meaning they were booked before the album was even released). Prior to actually hearing Kino's debut, you might just think that the resulting "supergroup" (and yes, we have to use that term; it's in the bylaws governing reviewers) would sound like a Marilrena Treebites [sounds ... painful - medical ed.].

Nope. Never was there a moment when the music made me think of any of those bands. Well, okay, never except once or twice. During the strident "Swimming In Women," one does hear a bit of Mitchell's Arena pedigree ... well, there's some Clive Nolan-ess that has rubbed of on ... well on whomever composed the music here, even if the lyrics and subject matter are a little less theatrical and epic. And there are some widdly keyboards buried in the mix that do sound a bit Marillion-ish, I suppose. A lyrical piano and string elements fill out this piece.

The music on Picture is, overall, much poppier than Marillion, lighter than Arena, less moody and dark than Porcupine Tree and not quite as quirky as It Bites - yet fits most comfortably with Marillion and It Bites. Instead, the references come from outside the quartet - won't say influences, mind, just references. That is, this or that style or mood or phrase is reminiscent of this or that artist or band. Who kept coming to mind most often was RWPL, and specifically their World Through My Eyes release. If you aren't familiar with that disc, what we have here is an often dreamy, hazy feel, richly arranged with harmony vocals and layered instrumental elements, some subtle, some declarative. If there nods to other artists, they are just that, nods. Kino's sound is thoroughly modern retro.

"Huh?" you ask. "Isn't that an oxy moron?" Yes and no. There's a freshness to Kino's sound, even as it harks back to a time long gone. Twenty years ago, this album would have charted on the pop charts, when they were a little more eclectic than they are now. So, in a way, you could say that Kino have a pop sound - this is exemplified by the cheery, upbeat, breezy, "Telling Me To Tell You," where they channel The Police and late-80s pop-rock. I must say that Peter Schilling's "Major Tom" kept coming to mind in the passages that lead up to the chorus. That chorus has an epic, sweeping feel that is quite catchy (it's going through my head right now). On the Kino website, Mitchell mentions The Police specifically ... you can hear a hint of... hmm... "Walking In Your Footsteps" in the opening notes - a tinkly xylophone-like percussive sound that is either guitar or keyboards. A chart-topper and one of my favorites.

However, Mitchell refers to "Perfect Tense" as the "pop song" ... It is the most pop-oriented of the album's 10 tracks. In another time, it would probably be, if not a chart topper, certainly a charter. Pop doesn't really sound like this any more, as pop music today isn't so much crafted as formulated. No, music like this has been moved into the Adult Contemporary category ...

So, where the RPWL feel can be heard is in parts of "Losers Day Parade" and in "Letting Go," and mostly on the latter of the two. "Losers Day Parade," which opens the album, is a lengthy piece, more than 9 minutes and is a ... a parade of tempos march past moving from a very alt-rock sound into something akin to the Beatles to heavier alt. rock. Very commercial for the most part. That's not an indictment against it, but it's prog by dint of structure and that parade of tempos.

One might think of early Spock's Beard with "People" (with Morse, of course), only more synth-strings. "All You See" echoes for a second Pink Floyd's .... nope, it's "Fearless" (and not "Eclipse," as you may have thought I'd say). That's the verses, the chorus explodes into this wonderously epic and lyrical extravaganza ... A great guitar solo here, just enhances this piece. And I really should say that the performances here are just splendid, though I found "Letting Go" took a bit of time to find its way.

"Room For Two" is a jangly, peppy, Bryan Adams-ish, roots-rockish rocker, with lots of (what sounds to me to be) Rhodes piano cheerily bouncing along beneath the main instrumentation (guitars and drums). "Holding On" begins as a somber piece but grows into a progtastic piece, that suggests, once it has grabbed you, a swirling, shimmery mix of Marillion, ELP, Kansas, and Glass Hammer - guitar and vocals sprout bass and drums which then give rise to organ, which is given spotlight and hence the ELP / Kansas / Glass Hammer) reference.

"Picture" closes the album with a short, delicate piano and vocal piece.

"Telling Me..." and "Swimming..." are the two pieces that really stick in one's brain, though "All You See" comes close. But I think it's because those two make very strong musical statements, whereas the less intense pieces... don't. Just means they aren't as hook laden.

There were two ways this album could have gone - one, it could have failed miserably, showing that these performers work best in their main bands. Or two, and what did happen, that together they could form a tight unit that releases a strong debut. It's not perfect - "Losers..." might be a little too eclectic, "Letting Go" takes a while to get going - but it is a pretty nifty album. Certainly one of the most engaging of 2005.

By the way, as you probably know, there's no such bylaw about calling these collaborations "supergroups"... but when you have a group of superb musicians that collaborate superbly, what else can you call a super group but "supergroup"?

Losers Day Parade / Letting Go / Telling Me To Tell You / Swimming In Women / People / All You See / Perfect Tense / Room For Two / Holding On / Picture

John Beck - keyboards
John Mitchell - guitar, vocals
Chris Maitland - drums
Pete Trewavas -bass

Picture (2005)
Cutting Room Floor (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: December 11th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 857
Language: english


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