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The Flower Kings - "Paradox Hotel"

(132 min 2CD, Inside Out)


****+

Prolusion. THE FLOWER KINGS; how much introduction does a mega-band need? "Paradox Hotel" is the band's 10th studio release. Paradox Hotel is something of a metaphor for life. We check in, we check out and in between we rub elbows with any number of different types. The cover illustration is done in an almost 60's Underground Comix look, a striking contrast with the Ciruelo painting for Adam & Eve.

Disc 1 (72 min)
****+

TRACK LIST:

1.  Check In 1:37
2.  Monsters And Men 21:21
3.  Jealousy 3:24
4.  Hit Me With A Hit 5:32
5.  Pioneers Of Aviation 7:51
6.  Lucy Had A Dream 5:28
7.  Bavarian Skies 6:34
8.  Selfconsuming Fire 5:49
9.  Mommy Leave The Light On 4:38
10. End On A High Note	10:43

LINEUP:

Roine Stolt - guitars; vocals
Tomas Bodin - grand piano, keyboards
Hasse Froberg - vocals; guitars
Jonas Reingold - bass
Hasse Bruniusson - percussion
Marcus Liliequist - drums

Analysis. "Coming up on one minute. Mark. T-minus 60 seconds and counting..." NASA Control recordings dominate the opening track Check In, including the countdown for a space launch, which culminates in the sounds of a ping-pong ball being hit and bouncing. A ping-pong ball? Hold it, didn't they use this schtick on "Retropolis"? (I thought Rhythm of Life was funnier.) Monsters & Men has a promising start, with some of Mr. Bodin's piano work, but becomes an overly long meandering. A line in the release material captures it quite well: "Paradox Hotel" is just another romp through progressive rock excess. It is well played and full of trademark Flower Kings instrumentation. There is absolutely no question who you are listening to. It's just about twice as long as necessary to do what it does. Jealousy is a wicked little song, presented gently like a lullaby, but the lyrics are full of the sickness of a jealous heart, a fine little twist of irony. Pioneers of Aviation is a highlight of the first disk, as it steps most boldly out of the mould. The opening few measures could almost be a Thjis van Leer - Jan Akkerman collaboration, but this is very brief. Truly, there is a meatiness to the synthesizer and guitar parts as they develop that sound anything like a parody of old FK albums. The one instrumental track on the first disk, it soars like the heroes of its title. Lucy Had A Dream is another surprise, as it almost plods along for too long, but picks up during the dream sequence, sounding like an orchestration of a carnival calliope soundtrack to a comical nightmare, including an oom-pah-ing tuba. Bavarian Skies is a bad joke that doesn't know when to quit, like a shaggy dog story, dragging on for six and a half minutes. The vocals are sung with a heavy affectation, sounding like something out of an old B rated horror movie, Hitler lamenting how misunderstood he is. In the background old speeches by der Fuhrer can occasionally be heard. Make no mistake, the band is obviously no fan of the Third Reich's main man, but I find myself asking "why?" Selfconsuming Fire utilizes some lovely Spanish guitar work. It's a quiet and rather melancholy song until the halfway point, where it picks up and an organ backed electric guitar solo takes over. Once upon a time Roine proclaimed that he wanted his music to be an uplifting alternative to the dark perspectives of so much music that was on the market. Although it is a far cry from death metal, Roine's music has taken a bit of a turn for the dark lyrically. Mommy Leave the Light On is a quiet little song sung from the perspective of a child, much afraid of everything. The title tells the tale of the end track of the first disk. End On a High Note is much brighter in lyrical and musical content, feeling more like what would make The Flower King himself smile. It is a look at the beauty that does still exist all around us, if we simply look to see it.

Disc 2 (60 min)
*****

TRACK LIST: 

1.  Minor Giant Steps 12:12
2.  Touch My Heaven 6:10
3.  Unorthodox Dancinglesson 5:24
4.  Man Of The World 5:55
5.  Life Will Kill You 7:05
6.  The Way The Waters Are Moving 3:12
7.  What If God Is Alone 6:58
8.  Paradox Hotel 6:29
9.  Blue Planet 9:42

Analysis. Minor Giant Steps is a good strong opener for the second disk. Lyrically, it makes elusions to Neil Armstrong's words when he first descended to the Moon's surface. Musically, it is classic Flower Kings in terms of the instrumentation and the way it turns moods around. Touch of Heaven is a quietly contemplative, somewhat melancholy, slow song laced with Melotron and bluesy guitar. It's a bit Pink Floydish, to tell the truth, especially the way it builds in intensity toward the end, with wordless vocal harmonies backing the ever building guitar solo. Unorthodox Dancing Lesson has the FK signature xylophone-guitar pairing with various clinkings and clankings, an instrumental track complete with plenty of odd little sound effects thrown in for good measure. Sadly, like the album in general, it goes on about twice as long as it should. Man of the World contains one of the most pleasant and hum-able melodies on the entire set. It's a very pretty melody, with some nice vocal harmonies. Life Will Kill You - very nice guitar intro and vocal harmonies. This is a bouncy little song (despite the title), another of the more melody driven entries. Recordings from the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 flight are used to punctuate the theme. Some good rocking here. The Way The Waters Are Moving quietly tells of the changes of life, flowing on and on, piano and vocal with just a touch of 'strings'. "It's a living hell. Paradox Hotel," so says the chorus of Paradox Hotel, a straight-ahead rocker near the end of the B disk. Blue Planet raps it up, taking a peaceful look back at Earth from space. This was a good note to end on, so to speak. It's a song that is solidly Flower Kings, taking some nice twists and turns, staying fresh from beginning to end, without feeling overworked. Once again, NASA a recording is part of the mix, as an astronaut describes his view of earth, while the music plays quietly and completely fading at the end.

Conclusion. This is a good album, but not a great one. It's not a bad album, but the guys just don't really explore any new territory here. It's just not adventurous. It is, however, about twice as long as it needs to be. (Instead of "Paradox Hotel," it would have been better as "Paradox Bed & Breakfast.") Although it may please devotees of their music, I would not recommend "Paradox Hotel" to someone as an introduction. "Stardust We Are", "Retropolis" or "Rainmaker" would all be better points of entry, when the music was newer and fresher. The second disk is much stronger overall than the first, but not without padding. Sometimes more music is not more pleasure. Mies van der Rohe could have been talking about this album when he proclaimed: "Less is more".

KW: April 13, 2006


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