Year of Release: 1998
Catalog Number: n/a
Total Time: 58:14:00
Australia's Brainstorm have released an album that so reminds me of the classic rock I grew up with - great melodies, shimmering guitars out front, a laid back atmosphere, and engaging vocals. The opening track "Cyborg" is all this, plus an engaging, spacey instrumental. So, while it may not be progressive in the vein of Yes, King Crimson, or Emerson Lake and Palmer, there are some passages that recall Pink Floydian textures, that hint at such neo-prog bands as Arena, Marillion, etc., without either influence being overt. I mean, there are very, very dark bass textures in "Walks In Anonymity" that suggest Rush, the keyboards are reminiscent of Clive Nolan (Of course, "Egress," which closes the album, made me think of The Cars, specifically of the bass-pulse of "You're All I've Got Tonight").
As the album's title Tales Of The Future suggests, the music ties in with futuristic, and dystopian, themes. Most of the context is provided by narrative text accompanying the lyrics. For "Cyborg" it is the dissolution of the human race into completely mechanical entities. "Evolution" is not so futuristic in its commentary, as even now our planet is being laid waste by our own consumption - I don't doubt that this is also commentary on Australia (the microcosmic example).
"Not Saying Anything" is far more general, and perhaps the lone upbeat song on the album. It is, sonically, one part Midnight Oil, one part REM, and one part 60s rock. The former is mainly in the vocals for the verses, and the latter is the whole arrangement of the chorus, those cheerfully harmonizing vocals that recall, say, the Zombies. While on its surface, one might suppose it's a love song sung from man to woman, but I think it goes a bit deeper than that, or at least, can be deeper than that. Especially coming on the heels of the previous track. Of course, again, more of the context comes from the narrative than from the lyrics itself. Unlike some concept albums, where the narrative either tells in prose what the lyrics say in poetry, or fills in the blanks between the song-chapters, here it provides the only context for the track. In other words, if you were to take the narrative bits out, few of these songs would have a futuristic theme. Excepting "Spaceport," where the context provided in the narrative is background to the tale of the "man with a plan" on "Tan." So, I have to wonder if the narrative bits aren't taken from a book or something (like Rush with 2112 being an Ayn Rand story, or Bjorn Lynne's Wolves Of The Gods, or numerous other examples) and the songs were composed to illustrate it in some way. If so, the source isn't mentioned (though Emerson is the source for the quote for "Still I See" and Johannes Keppler is quoted on the back cover (along with a still from 2001: A Space Odyssey I think, or very much like one).
Okay, let's not get too hung up on that, however, because what really, really matters is the music. And I have to tell you, prog or not, I like it. Oh, there is a vocal moment during "Not Saying Anything" that I'm not overly fond of...and it is where I thought of Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett (as I mentioned), but other than that, this is really likeable and entertaining (despite it's gloom) album.
There are a few guitar textures on "Brideshead" that echoed, at least to me, the Hollies' "Bus Stop," but they are so subtle and mixed in with swirling keys and bass. "In Violent Hours" is dark with rumbling drums, subtle guitar, drifting keys...there is a vaguely Celtic feel here, but perhaps because it sounds a bit like Red Jasper. The deep bass tones only add to the gloomy atmosphere. Though, light, tinkling percussion flickers like campfire's seen from a distance.
"Still I See" is a Floydesque atmospheric piece, whereas "Sow The Wind" is a rolling, country-tinged, piece that recalls to me heroic cowboy themes. "Conception" sounds more like Gin Blossoms or other American roots-rock bands with a slight Byrds influence. Actually, more than a slight Byrds influence.
So I like this a great deal - it's been stuck in the player over the past two weeks or so (along with a few others also reviewed...ah, the advantage of more than one CD player). And guitarist/vocalist Paul Foley tells me that they will be releasing a remastered version of their 1995 release Brainstorm 2 Earth Zero in November.
Cyborg (8:44) / Evolution (6:09) / Not Saying Anything (3:28) / Brideshead (8:33) / In Violent Hours (4:31) / Spaceport (3:59) / Still I See (8:50) / Sow The Wind (2:22) / Conception (3:48) / Walks In Anonymity (4:49) / Egress (5:01)
Steve Bechervaise - keyboards
Craig Carter - lead, steel and wooden guitars, vocals
Vittorio Di Iorio - drums and keyboards
Paul Foley - vocals, acoustic and visible guitars
Jeff Powerlett - bass and air guitars and vocals
Earth Zero (1995)
Tales Of The Future (1998)
Desert World (2005)
Genre: Progressive Rock