Year of Release: 2009
Label: Metal Mind
Catalog Number: MASS CD 1274 DG
Total Time: 67:25:00
I was not familiar with DeeExpus before their RoSFest 2010 appearance, filling the "Church of Prog" spot on Sunday morning, except, as usual, by name. In fact, it wasn't until their performance that I heard anything by them except a track available (if I recall correctly) from the RoSFest website. There was a sound about that track that I quite liked. And, as reported in my RoSFest round up, I did think the band were very good, even if lead vocalist Tony Wright was fighting laryngitis.
So, in browsing the dealer room, I picked up this CD, Far From Home. This 2009 release was recorded live in Katowice, Poland and released by Metal Mind (there is also a DVD version). The set list is their entire debut CD, Half Way Home, with one additional track.
The set kicks off with the slowly burning "Greed," a track that doesn't endear me to the band, at least this live recording of it. But the track that follows, "Pttee," works much better for me... a churning, pulsating rocker. At first glance, the title made me think of a certain English group (which DeeExpus also are...), but oddly enough, it is that certain group that this song is about. Now, you'd not think that a semi-narrative story about seeing a PT concert (which we can only assume is Porcupine Tree, given all the other references found therein) would make for an interesting track, and yet the whole groove and vocal delivery draws you right in... Andy Ditchfield's appreciation for PT, and being inspired by them, is evident in the latter portion of the track, not just in the lyrics themselves, but in the whole warm vocal delivery from Wright.
Overall, I like the band. I'm not blown away by them and I do think they are better instrumentalists than lyricists, but given that I'm coming off a Marillion-Clutching At Straws bender*, I've been sorta focused on lyrics and their meaning. Not to say their awful in anyway, but they do seem... ordinary, about ordinary subjects. I guess there's something there in not getting hyperbolic about ordinary things. And a lot of modern UK prog is about ordinary things... not the least of which, loosing yourself in the drink (circle back to CAS, for example. And don't think that's just an idle reference, for there, during the very next track, "One Eight," we get a song about a group friends getting together for a drink, but, as the verbal intro states, "something goes wrong." What actually goes wrong is bit.. mysterious, in a way... or I'm just not seeing it. Musically, it has that same mellow, pensive feel as Marillion's "Slaint Mhath" - also about drinking... well, that communal feeling that happens in a bar, even among strangers... But as is often the case, how the lyrics sound often is better than how they read, so the feel of them, the beats when sung, do work quite well.
Most of the album's tracks put the rock in progressive rock, and, perhaps more of the rock than the progressive, if we're being strict conformists (ironically, I suppose). An exception to that is a track that isn't from that debut. "Red" is not a cover of the Crimson classic, but a track composed 6 years prior (in 2003). It is a pleasant mellow, balladic track that edges towards power ballad territory, then veers off into melodic, chiming guitar prog rock territory; prog rock complete with an organ solo. A ferocious, searing, acidic guitar solo follows and leads to the climactic moment of the track.
There are more of these type of guitar solos in the longest track, "Half Way Home." "Halfway Home" starts as a fiery rocker with a bit of a Celtic rhythm to it. And not for the first time, since I've mentioned it once already, you can hear just a bit of Marillion in the style. Nothing overt, nothing you can pin down any one track, but certainly... there's something there. This is the epic track in the set and on the album, exploring different textures as the tone and tenor of the story changes - here about someone Wright knew who ended her life - so at a later point, it becomes mellower, darker, moodier. And then still at another moment, heavier, chunkier.
Other thoughts while listening: Little elements of "Pointless Child" - sax-like keening guitar, tinkling keyboards, give this track a slight 70s, soft rock-like feel, until the bass gets to churning and chugging away. While the title doesn't really seem to encapsulate the song - to me at least - this is one of my favored tracks, "Pttee" being another.
As a live recording, it sounds very good, clear production. The performance itself is also good, even as Wright's voice goes a bit "wobbly" here and there. It is live, after all, no chance to do a retake (although even then, that sometimes happens if things go really askew). All in all, it's not a bad release. And although I don't think any of the band members are new to this (Ditchfield and Wright aren't), this does also capture only their second or third live performance together, the rest of the band being gathered for the performance (whereas it was Wright and Ditchfield in the studio essentially), so... some imperfections are bound to appear.
As of this writing, DeeExpus are scheduled to open RoSFest 2012's Friday slate of bands.
*this retrospective came on the heels of what a friend and I termed Pink Floyd month -- not only because PF were in the news owing to the immersion reissues, but because we had been jawing about Floyd off and on over the course of a week or two. And if she was a Floyd-obsessive (which she claimed she was), then I was the Marillion-obsessive (at least through Marbles), and I was moved to share why that was. Because of a particular mood I was in, Clutchingwas perfect. Perhaps too perfect, I but shant dwell on that part of the story.
Intro (1:48) / Greed (7:55) / Pttee (10:52) / One 8 (7:40) / Pointless Child (6:25) / Red (7:26) / Half Way Home (17:39) / One Day (1:10) / 7 Nights (6:30)
Tony Wright - lead vocal
Andy Ditchfield - guitar, vocals
Steve Wright - guitar & vocals
Ian Raine - bass guitar & vocals
Kev Jager - drums & vocals
Marc Jolliffe - keyboards
Half Way Home (2008)
Far From Home (2009)
The King Of Number 33 (2011)
Far From Home (DVD) (2009)
Genre: Progressive Rock