The fourth album by Tiles comes half a decade after Presents Of Mind with many a Rushism firmly intact. In addition, producer Terry Brown — the former "fourth member of Rush" who has also worked with Voivod and Fates Warning — was tapped to lend his magic touch, and the one and only Hugh Syme provided another memorable cover design to add to his repertoire. Many a Tiles fans will perceive the curiously-titled Window Dressing to be the group's best and most original-sounding effort to date, with many exciting moments. The star of the quartet continues to be founding member Chris Herin, whose lead guitar prowess and proficiency on additional instruments are the proverbial bedrock of the compositions. This is not to short-change drummer Pat DeLeon & bassist Jeff Whittle; the rhythm section isn't quite up to Lee/Peart snuff, but both men are seasoned players who make all the right moves as official groove support. Paul Rarick has a fine singing voice, and yes he sounds a bit like Geddy, but it's noticeable that certain [vocal] melodies meander along in stream-of-consciousness fashion, like a vine that hasn't finished twisting into form.
The album begins with the multi-sectional, epic title track. Multi-sectional is the key, here, as "Window Dressing" amounts to little more than what must be several individual songs joined together at their interstitial borders. This is what constitutes many a side-length epic by a classic group, but usually there is some sense of transition or overall cohesion that threads itself throughout. What recurring theme there is, is barely skeletal in shape, and for what should have been a major kick in the seat of the pants in turn becomes the Window's middle point. A plus is that there is plenty of fiery playing from Herin, Whittle and DeLeon. Propelled by a metallic riff, Lifeson-esque arpeggiations and some brief acoustic parts, the Rush connection continues with guest guitarist Kim Mitchell (former leader of Max Webster) on "Capture The Flag," nine minutes of straight-up rockin' out for the duration, with nary a wasted beat. Three instrumentals figure into the grand design, "Stop Gap" arguably being the best with Herin performing on keyboard and trumpet, leaving bassman Whittle to play guitar. "Stop Gap" also features the talent of [Discipline focal point] violinist Matthew Parmenter. The next instrumental, "Unicornopia," is a chamber piece that features Herin on heavily-reverbed piano and, again, Parmenter. Both of these instrumentals are slick, engaging pieces of differing tempo and texture, with the former giving the rhythm section room to strut. The third and shortest instrumental, "A.02," is a mandolin interlude that serves as a prelude to the moody "Slippers In The Snow" — Syme provides the synthetic choral backdrop on this. "Paintings" is another heavy, straightforward rock tune that would be more effective had Rarick's voice been mixed a bit louder; his falsetto isn't quite pointed enough to cut through the mix.
In all, Window Dressing proves Tiles to be a solid, consistent act that will continue to experiment within the musical corridors it resides. Those familiar with the band's sound know what there is (and more) to expect, and this release is probably as good — if not the best — for the newbie to check out.