Our second offering from the great continent down under, Australia comes this band, “A Lonely Crowd” which is a tongue-in-cheek play on words so their name alone has Prog smeared all over it which is a good start! From the city of Melbourne we find this band’s origins and they’ve been around for a while but this is a first for me a well as you so a journey we shall undertake in to this band and their music together. Unfortunately we are spoiled with bands like; AC/DC and Midnight Oil, Hunters and Collectors and INXS from Australia that many of the other bands that this country produces are lost in the shuffle so I’m chuffed to be able to introduce you to “new” music form around the world.
A 16 track album for Prog is a lot to digest but a wonderful offering to the continuing growth of the genre and a surprise as well as most Prog albums rarely go over the ten song mark as if almost a limit cap on how many songs you can cram on to one record but with the advent of the compact disc and now iTunes and other social sites for obtaining music, bandcamp, spotify etc one can make an album that is at least a double’s worth of music or more and call it a single record to the general public where as before you were limited at the length of vinyl you got to use of you wanted to make a single or double record. The album begins with the track, “Blessing in Disguise” a quick minute and change intro piece that has a distinct am radio sound and crackle to it until it kicks in an torch girl vocal jumps in with the music to a swinging 1930’s jazz inflection. Short and sweet to break in the album with a film noir style sounding track. “Barbed Haywire” follows up next with a gate smasher intro then a slinky bass line coupled with percussion for a couple of bars before the rest of the band jump in then the mayhem begins with this tight Proto-Metal Prog sound but with subtle accents of flute combining so many different elements of the Prog recipe here along with the start/stops accentuating in and out quite poignantly I must add. In less than four minutes they bust down the doors and stormed the castle walls with this one, well done indeed. “Tyranny of Dissonance” follows up next with a neo-steampunk-slap, torch girl singing track that has a very unique beat to it where you are finding yourself foot tapping on the offbeat which is one of the interesting bits about this piece. The drum work is rather impressive here along with the desert guitar and dark vocals as they chop and curve their way through the song. The start/stops, tempo/timbre changes are great here as the band goes in to a full scale assault of rolling mayhem then in to Proto-metal and right back to the film noir torch girl style and they don’t even miss a beat swapping formats here in a brilliant display of avant-garde music. “Make You Scream” has that early 80’s underground swing to it as we again visit this dirty vocalization in a really well executed way as Xen’s vocals may not have a large dynamic range but she doesn’t need to here as she presents a beautiful ensemble of a variety of tones to convey the song’s timbre and feel just right. Her sultry approach to singing gives the band a great edge to their already unique PROGginess. The song does scream out but musically here as it builds up and builds up bringing the listener to a cliff and then disappears leaving you with the option to stand or fall.
“Tightrope Somnambulists“, if Ian Anderson ever played heavier than he does now it would be like this song. A fabulous display of musicianship here as the guitars and flute volley back and forth for service and the drums snap and break the necks of anything that their soundwaves hit. The Prog recipe is well served here again with the start/stops in classic array and formation and it’s not till we are pass the halfway point do we get some vocals in and they swoon over the the tense play of heaviness that weighs the song to the ground and digs its heels in just right and somnambulists…..great word! Next we come in to “Dragonfly” that floats in like a butterfly and stings like a bee. The operatic vocals here are reminiscent of Nightwish and Evanescence but done a la Melbourne style and this song has a bit of late 90’s King Crimson flare to it in spots as well as dropping off the heavy guitars in parts to have the song a moment to pull back then bring the big wall of sound back in to your face precisely at it should. “End Without End” gives us a swing beat and that west coast sound that you lean back and groove to and it builds up a strength that forces you sit upright and groove a little harder at times. Xen’s voice is very sultry here again as it is seductive in luring you to the sound with her Siren’s song. The blending of the voice and music this band pulls off has a great tongue for uniqueness and diversity of influences that they bring to their table as there aren’t too many bands in Prog that have female vocals in them. They also do one of my favourite little bits at the end of songs, effects and they use them well, short and sweet, a bit of TV fuzz and whoosh gone! “Misunderestimated” is another one of this band’s great use and play on words and this one has a great sci-fi feel to it, the guitar work on this one has a weird riff to it which is admirable Luke’s playing here has a significant effect on the songs play out along with Scott’s powerful drumming here is magnificent as he just hammers it down then retreats for but a second and WHAM he’s back in the saddle pulverizing the kit to accompany Lachlan’s tight but necessary bass lines and Xen keeps you riveted with a very particular singing style on this one! “Mustard Brush Tango” whisks us away to France, Egypt and places else known with this style of sound but the band does take it to their level and an onslaught of power befalls your ears in and out as the band switches it up so often you want to tango, bang you head and get your groove on all in one song. Prog recipe delivered with a Cheshire smile and flying whales while they play clarinets wearing berets and tattoos. A radiant display of musicianship yet again by A Lonely Crowd.
“Status Anxiety” allows us sit back and calm our nerves a bit as the band retreats back to a more laid back mood and groove here with a great mid-range song that has a strong backbone but the fluidity to sway and flow eloquently throughout. Build ups that pull back in time for the vocals to return in and create waves of docile scenes as then the band does another upswing to fill out the song gracefully. I admire their approach to this one as it builds up then pulls back then repeats the pattern with a great flute solo in the middle accompanied by a heavy entourage of the rest of the band. The tight complexity of the playing at the end had me replaying that passage again twice because it was incredible as it was so much in such a short burst of time left in the song it was well executed here and a profound ending to the track. “Adjustify” brings us back to the jazzy swing of things in the beginning then it takes on another life before the 50 second mark to a heavier jazzy monster of such and we get our first taste of male vocals here which throws us right off course and is a pleasure to hear more than one vocal dynamic on the record. This song has a tight formation and dark moodiness to it that relates us to earlier songs in the album where they’ve taken down darkened streets in the rain in the night. This song has a very King Crimson heaviness to it from their later styles with the tempo and patterns played. A lot of bands do draw from the Crimson style whether they know it or not most of the time I think which is not a bad thing at all! “Bipolar Bear” has a very candid carnival ring to it as well as mayhem making it a very bipolar song here to go along with its title. The song is indeed bipolar with the tone inflections and star/stops added in for a tighter array of playing. It’s very reminiscent of some of Steven Wilson’s solo work like “Raider II” with the heavy and the light instrumentation applied within one song. “Few and Far Between” starts off mellow but it doesn’t stay that way for long, it erupts in to a frenzy of everyone in the band going mach one for a few bars then pulling back to release another verse in this very Egyptian sand imaged song as if you were walking through the kingdoms of the Pharaohs to find your way back to your sanity. Very straight forward and non stop till it’s sweet ending. “De Vito” has a bounce to it unlike any other song on the record therefore giving it a stand out feel to it in a Prog-Funk feel to it via distorted guitars and funktified drumming and bass lines all in just over a minute long.
“Glass Eyes” again has a variety of instrumentation going on with a light and dark side to it allowing you the listener to to pay attention to the Eastern groove of the flute and the complex finger picking guitar during the verses. The shuffling beat is reinforced by the driving bass guitar and drums that roll like a steamroller crushing and flattening what’s in front of them and yet still maintaining a calm passage way for ships to sail through its gates and around its massive foray of cylindrical might. Punchy guitar work aside from the hybrid picking sends us in to a strong headspace where we want blood and got it while we try to keep calm throughout which just isn’t on. It certainly gets your blood boiling and an awesome track for your night at home to play any fast paced game on whichever system you have and your highway driving set list as well and being the longest song on the record too using the last minute for some rain and walking effects that leave you wondering. “Skyscrapers” is great musically but I hate to say not my favourite vocal for the most part with the screamo style to it, too Rage Against the Machine for my liking but they had a purpose to doing this way which I don’t hold against them but I feel that it didn’t go with the flow of the rest of the record unfortunately. This is the second male vocal track on the album as well. The bass work here is clean and tight, drumming that races like scattering birds and guitar work that soars with a glisten in the bright sky above. The song ends with a tight snap cut off but almost as if it was meant to go on for a few more bars or have a big crescendo finish to it. I really like this band but sorry Lonely Crowd if had you finished off with Glass Eyes it would have been very effective and more Prog of you to do so but you had your reasons and for that I commend you for putting it on there as you felt needed be.
This band is a great example of what Australia is putting out musically and in the genre world of Prog. They’ve got another album out and a couple of singles we’ll look at down the road but this is a great starter for you to have a listen to what is coming out and is currently making their scene and I’m sure they are currently drumming up new ideas for their next album and tour as we hope they do make it across the big pond and come visit North America for those of us here and to Europe and Scandinavia as well ! Enjoy