Agent Cooper - Beginner's Mind

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Zero Sum Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:21:00

Put Agent Cooper's Beginner's Mind on the list of albums that I'm smacking my head over not listening to sooner. I put it on and was hooked from the first moment. It's infectious and goes non-stop. Sure, it leaves you uncertain at first because it begins so quiet and subtle, but then it just explodes. It's been one of those releases that I had to stop listening to give something else some time on the player.

Agent Cooper are a quartet from Atlanta, Georgia formed by Doug Busbee (guitars and vocals), Forrest Robinson (drums), Glenn Longmuir (basses) and Eric Frampton (keys and other vocals) in the late 1990s. Their self-titled debut was released in 1999 and Beginner's Mind in 2005, by which time Sean Delson had taken over basses and Frank Fontsere took over on drums, although Longmuir and Robinson can be heard on two and four tracks, respectively.*

Is Agent Cooper rock with progressive metal elements, progressive metal with rock elements, or progressive rock with progressive metal elements? Although it doesn't matter in the long run -- they're good, this is a great listen, and you should add this to your collection -- I'd say they occupy that middle ground where the answer is "yes" to all three. There's no doubt that the underlying structure is rock; the songs follow a versus/chorus dynamic, even if there aren't 4/4 rhythms and a strict verse/chorus pattern. There are soaring, yet controlled, vocals, epic arrangements? everything is just in the right place. No excess baggage, no long solos for the sake of showing off? all 100% grade A progressive rock/metal with no filler. Great production and pacing, too. Aside from the vocals, guitars and percussion is the engine that motors this album along, the presence and role of keyboards the featured accessories that you don't get on the stock "rock band" model? so to speak.

[Clich? alert!] If I were to name some similar artists ? take a dash of recent Spock's Beard, and throw in the Beatles, Rush, a bunch of heavier melodic metal artists and? blend them together, naturally. Then filter it for just a few key elements and? Actually, here's who else come to mind, but who are too recent to likely be influences - Under The Sun and Tiles (aside: this is the kind of energy I would have wanted to hear in Tiles' Window Dressing).

Beginner's Mind opens with the middle-eastern toned and themed "East Indian Sun." If the band were any more tight here - in sync but also very close-knitted - I think they'd implode. The vocal delivery is very controlled and restrained, even as musically this track soars to epic scale (with Longmuir on bass, Robinson on drums). This kind of feeling is present throughout the album. And man can they ROCK; the acidic-rough "Shallow Disease" attacks with metal ferocity tempered with throaty vocal harmonies (and the occasional tinkly piano; Longmuir and Robinson here again). Or the catchy melodic metal piece that follows, "?In The Bottle," that recalls - dare I say it? - Night Ranger. It's a rave up, high energy rocker? with parpiest, wheeziest keyboard solo I've heard yet.

A funky, frenetic bass line from Delson characterizes "The Heat," which glows red-hot with the energy it contains - another track that you fear one spark would cause a tremendous explosion. Add a throaty guitar solo to the mix and say Agent Cooper does fusion. "Taipei" is a slinky, pulsating rocker where distorted guitars strut and bass strolls alongside the propulsive crash of drums (though by the end, bass has rises to the forefront).

Widdly, parpy keyboards in "She Screams" hint at more progressive rock realms (erm, I thought of Marillion, actually; sorry, but for me it is true); this is a soaring, romantically arranged, softer piece, comparatively speaking. And recalls someone else that is just on the fringes of my memory? I may be thinking of Cowboy Poems Free-era Echolyn ? the harmonies are certainly there and the more I listen?

"You Know," which ends the album, is a mellow, acoustic balladic piece - a gentle and peaceful closing to the tempest that precedes it and brings it full circle to the understated opening track.

Although I've not mentioned every track, each one's a winner in my book. I don't have a favorite, as I like them all, and give this my highest recommendation, even though I've come late to the party.

*So, we mustn't mistake this Agent Cooper for the German electronic musician Lars Lewandowski who uses it as a pseudonym (and whom popped up at Wikipedia in a Google search) or the similarly named Swedish (?) trio Agent Kooper (who also came up in that search and who, incidentally, released their debut on Apr 25, 2007). Though I suspect the moniker for the Agent Cooper reviewed here was inspired by the character in Twin Peaks??

Later reissued by ProgRock Records

East Indian Sun / Shallow Disease / ? In The Bottle / Taipei / Timing Crucial / I Never Remember / The Heat / She Screams / Struggle Like I Do / You Know

Doug Busbee - guitars, vox
Eric Frampton - keys, other vox
Sean Delson - basses
Frank Fontsere - drums

Glenn Longmuir - basses (1, 2)
Forrest Robinson - drums (1, 2, 4, 7)

Agent Cooper (1999)
Beginner's Mind (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 21st 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2908
Language: english


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