Another fine album made during their rapid creative splurge. This is sometimes described as their most difficult and complex, but I don't think it's much more multilayered than say "Octopus". It's in their familiar style, intricate, tightly-controlled playing and singing with many tentacles of baroque twiddling. The powerful opening track has an interestingly twisted anthemic chorus "hail to power and to glory's way", with guitar thrashes on seemingly random notes. "So Sincere" jumps around restlessly like a mad thing. It's good stuff but it feels almost too self-conscious, like they were trying too hard not to sound predictable. They mellow out on "Aspirations", a delicate ballad in the style of "His Last Voyage" or "Think of Me with Kindness". The centre of the album has some competent but relatively unmemorable songs, although "Cogs in Cogs" has some inventive vocal interplay. "The Face" is built on a clockwork refrain with echoes on a folky fiddle. "Valedictory" is a transformed reprise of the opening. An extra track here is "The Power and the Glory", a throwaway song that was grudgingly written as a pop single on the orders of their label! Overall this album is solid stuff with some impressive playing and arrangements, but "Octopus" has the more inspired individual songs.
December 21, 2003