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(60 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Introspection 3:15 2. Tomorrow Birds Will Sing 6:51 3. Wave on a Soul 4:03 4. Not Yet 5:13 5. The Great Northern Hotel 6:25 6. Room For Everyone 5:11 7. Garden of Delights 5:01 8. To Pink from Blue 8:03 9. Squire & Circle 3:05 10. 1-3Bute-2 4:59 11. Happy End 7:54 LINEUP: Jeremie Grima - vocals; guitars Matthieu Laubert - keyboards; vocals Sebastien Bourdeix - guitars Anthone Leteve - bass Franck Girault - drums With: Adrien Chevalier - violin Guillaume Urvoy - saxophone Amelie Festa - female vocals
Prolusion. "Play Again" is the second CD by THE BLACK NOODLE PROJECT (BNP hereinafter) from France, following "And Life Goes On" (2004). Jeremie Grima and Sebastien Bourdeix also have a side enterprise, performing as a duo under the moniker of Stereoscope.
Analysis. "Play Again" features a newcomer, drummer Franck Girault. Unfortunately, he doesn't show himself to be an adequate replacement for the former chief of the quintet's percussion kitchen, Arnaud Rousset, who was certainly one of the main generators of progressive elements on the previous BNP album, having almost endlessly provided both multiple and power beats - even when the music seemed to be too plain for such. No, Franck's command of the instrument isn't bad at all; he is just too disciplined a player for my taste, never exceeding the bounds of that necessary limit which every particular musical situation demands from him. Nevertheless, fans of the band's first effort will be glad to know that on the pan-musical plane, little has changed as a result of that replacement. Eight of the eleven tracks are songs, some featuring both male and female vocals. Most of them still represent the same quite well crafted modern Space Rock modeled after the post-Waters era Pink Floyd, though this time out the music appears to be fully predictable, with a more pronounced 'mainstream' feeling, the relative straightforwardness of drum patterns playing not the least role in this change. (I see I contradict myself now, but, well, that's how things are. All in all, it was all just a brick in the wall:-) Distinct guitar riffs are often part of the picture as well, but we are not describing Space Metal here. It's more of a flirtation with heaviness, as the riffs are just chords in most cases. Quite annoying are repeats of the same verse-chorus phrase, which can be found in many vocal sections. The events developing on the instrumental level are relatively comparable with those typical of the said period of Pink Floyd's work. Sometimes the influence disappears, giving way to less-stale tunes, but soon it pops up again, et cetera. The tracks substantially fitting the preceding descriptions include Not Yet, To Pink from Blue, 1-3Bute-2 and Introspection, the latter being more impressive due to the absence of fixed constructions - meaning those the band find essential while building 'vocal bridges'. In other words, this is an instrumental piece. (Take note of the titles: To Pink from Blue, One Tribute To: I think they are quite eloquent already in themselves. "Did you get rid of your all-absorbing passion?" Not Yet.) Tomorrow Birds Will Sing is the same story, except for a lesser degree of hard texture, as also is The Great Northern Hotel, which though is one of the most original pieces here, revealing few resemblances with Pink Floyd. The instrumental Squire & Circle is another notable success BNP have achieved in the field of originality. Indeed, the piece is made up of two parts strongly differentiating from each other, though I find nothing square in the former, which represents an absolutely coherent interplay between two acoustic guitars, bass and piano. The 'circle' embraces electric guitar, synthesizer and saxophone. Garden of Delights doesn't remind me of anything either. Its purely instrumental arrangements (symphonic Art- and Space Rock) are quite enjoyable, but the vocal storyline is extremely primitive and flashy, bringing nothing to mind but Nu Metal. Wave on a Soul fills me with positive emotions despite the fact that it strongly resembles The Alan Parsons Project, just using a violin, plus crunchy guitar riffs on occasion. The title of the concluding song, Happy End, seems to be very symptomatic, as the sound is unmistakably Pink Floyd ("we are back, to our roots!"), even though a violinist adds some definitely new coloration to the stuff. Nonetheless, the long instrumental 'jam' that covers the last two thirds of the track is one of the most impressive episodes on the disc. Finally, to the worst piece, with your permission: Room For Everyone even features a violin too, but it doesn't help at all in this particular, hmm, accident. While exceeding 5 minutes in duration, this atmospheric instrumental piece is the same theme, just repeated twice. The overdubbed voice of Charles Chaplin aggressively narrating "The Great Dictator" runs all through it, raising this primordially heavily monotonous opus to the power of vulgarity. I wonder whether it's an attempt to follow Roger Waters in his anti-militaristic aspirations.
Conclusion. Some of the tracks on "Play Again" can be regarded as the highest achievement of BNP, at least regarding their musical identity. Overall however, this release is a step backwards in comparison with their first output. Even their English seems to be more accented here. Okay, this is my personal, perhaps narrow, view of things. Anyhow, I am certain fans of 'Pink Floyd-style' music will be delighted with this CD.
VM: Agst 5, 2006
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