Alternative music reviews

November 7, 2006

The Great Leap by Phideaux

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The Great Leap by PhideauxDo you remember the Progressive Rock of the Seventies? The Age of the Concept Album with meaningless meanderings about Oceans of a Topographical nature. The sheer irrelevance of the subject matter to a boy growing up and finding out about girls, motorbikes, and drinking was astounding. Music had been taken from three minute songs about love, desire, and dreams into twenty minute Science Fantasy dirges.

Given that scenario, then Punk wasn’t a revolution, it was just reclaiming music back into teenage territory again. it could ask questions like ‘have you ever fallen in love’ rather than ‘have you seen the vermilion sands on Saturn’s moons’.

And yet, there was something lost. Maybe it was the ability to fantasise, to allow a glimpse of things beyond our experience. The ability of music to take you on a trip to place you would never visit and to allow you to feel the wonder in your emotional reaction. Of course, we still found it in Joy Division’s reclamation of the insubstantial but denied that we were listening to the musical equivalent of Science Fiction. After all these years, it is time that somebody reclaimed the concept/fantasy space for us mere mortals who only understand the emotional hit. Phideaux steps forward…

I am not going to go through each track (check Phideaux’s MySpace blog for a breakdown at that level) but choose just two to talk about. You And Me Against A World Of Pain is a soft song with female harmonies, a gentle rolling rhythm, and added strings. But the desperate beauty of it is that the song is about escape from a cruel world and that world impinges at the end with the sounds of anger from anonymous voices. This may be a ‘Concept Album’ but it is easy to spot that a song like this is built from real experience and reaction to the bad things people do. By contrast Tannis Root doesn’t sound so rooted in real life but more general paranoia. It gires and gimbles with an always threatening manner and offers little comfort. One to match the conspiracy theorist in everybody.

I can’t resist mentioning Last and I Was Thinking. Both of these songs are much simpler than the rest on the album, the first about a future love and the second about a love that’s gone. I will say no more than both these songs take me back to Peter Hammill’s Been Alone So Long and Shingle Song. It’s a place I remember well and I never thought I’d hear its like again.

Perhaps the most important thing about this album is it changes each time I listen to it. I am going to love I Was Thinking and World Of Pain every time I hear them but my reaction to the other songs is never the same. Sometimes I find a few too harsh or too dense, but which tracks evoke this reaction changes each time – echoes of how I felt about Man Who Sold The World by Bowie for the first eight years. Don’t let Phideaux into your life unless you have a serious amount of time to spend with him.


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