After a few years of absence, Philly's The Tea Club returns with a new album, Grappling. As usual with their progressive rock, you're transported into a past time in another country. That would circa 1974 and England.
It's possible to throw in another country, Sweden. Mostly, The Tea Club reminds of old English progressive rock. More specifically a mash up of early Gabriel-era Genesis, maybe some Marillion, and Sweden's The Flower Kings. Some of that last vibe comes from the guitar work, but with a less lively feel, more melancholy and hypnotic.
After these things The Tea Club offers the usual sophisticated arrangements of prog rock, the amalgamation of bevy of instruments, melodies, hooks, curves, tempo and time signature changes. But here's the thing. Grappling sounds chaotic. It sounds more like parts than a whole. It sounds like every player went off to a distant cabin, created their music, and then returned to the studio. There, the band decided just to throw everything together in a stew of mismatched ingredients. What got lost is congruency. It's hard to find in any song a single hook, notably a melody, that keeps your ears and mind focused on the song at hand. Everything's so busy. For instance, Dr. Abraham and The Fox In A Hole were so confusing, so disconnected, that I had to stop from playing them, so I could concentrate on writing this review. I don't normally have that problem with any music.
Actually, when I was listening to the album the first time around, my mind's ear first reaction was to ignore what it was hearing. Now that is really strange. I don't know. To these ears something's missing. That's not to say that the musicianship is bad. Certainly not. They're all very fine players. And the production is practically immaculate. At this point, however, I will not be listening to Grappling anytime soon, if ever. Perhaps you have some interest in grappling with it. (Didn't see that pun coming did you?)
Actually, when I was listening to the album the first time around, my mind's ear first reaction was to ignore what it was hearing. Now that is really strange. I don't know. To these ears something's missing. At this point, however, I will not be listening to Grappling anytime soon, if ever.
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