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Muffins, The: Double Negative

It would be hard to imagine that The Muffins could equal or better their outstanding release from 2002 called Bandwidth, but here we are in late 2004, and they have pretty much done the impossible. Double Negative is a decidedly different beast compared to their last one, as this new platter is much more symphonic, much more "big band jazz" sounding, much more "progressive rock", and probably a little less of the avant-garde sound that has permeated much of their music over the years. There's no doubt though that this is still The Muffins, which always means an extremely enjoyable listening experience.

It 's apparent that as the musicians in The Muffins have gotten older, their songwriting styles have gotten much more melodic, and the result is a breathtaking album filled with lush tapestries of sonic brilliance, at times quirky and complex, but always sweeping and instantly memorable. Keyboards are figured much more prominently this time around, and in most cases are the featured instruments alongside the powerful sax and reed work (check out the raging Dave Stewart-inspired organ solo on "Angel from Lebanon.") The two proponents of these instruments, Thomas Scott and Dave Newhouse, are quite busy with saxes, flutes, clarinets, piano, organ, and synthesizers, and with the addition of a few guest musicians on horns, reeds, violin, viola, & cello, there is a strong orchestral sound, heard to greatest effect on a song like the elegant and symphinc "Childhood's End." Rousing big-band jazz is all the rage on "Exquisite Corpse", a song with big beefy saxes, trombone, echoed guitar work (courtesy of drummer Paul Sears), and intricate piano & synths.

Gentle Giant meets Frank Zappa on the complex "Cat's Game" (featuring killer bass riffs from Billy Swann) , but the band also hits home with many serene and atmospheric moments, like on "Dawning Star" and "The Highlands", two very classy pieces that have an almost new-age aura about them. There's even some funky fusion (again featuring the horns & reeds) on "Choombachang" and "5:00 Shadow", as well as tasty & smooth contemporary jazz on the sophisticated "Maya."

In summary, there is so much to savor here on this new release from the Muffins, and plenty to whet the appetite of the prog, fusion, jazz, and avant crowds. Absolutely essential.

Track List
1) The Highlands (6:04)
2) Writing Blind (5:54)
3) Choombachang (2:45)
4) The Ugly Buttling (3:39)
5) The Man In The Skin-Painted Suit (2:44)
6) Childhood's End (6:15)
7) Exquisite Corpse (6:52)
8) They Come On Unknown Nights (4:18)
9) Cat's Game (3:51)
10) Stethorus Punctum (4:01)
11) Dawning Star (5:20)
12) 5:00 Shadow (3:16)
13) Metropolis (3:35)
14) Angel From Lebanon (6:55)
15) Frozen Charlotte (2:53)
16) Maya (4:24)
17) The Two Georges (5:19)

Added: October 13th 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: The Muffins Official Website
Hits: 1675
Language: english

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