When I popped on Milo's Craving's The More You Know I knew nothing about the band, but there was something I felt: these were schooled musicians reared in Europe. Also no shock were the list of influences cited in the press release: Kansas, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Neal Morse (wait--Neal Morse is an influencer now? Am I getting old or what?). What struck me further upon popping it out was how unaffected I was after spending 60+ minutes with an expertly crafted concept album.
According to the press release, it took nearly 3 years to create this album, and it shows. It's drum-tight & correct in every way—performance, sonically, musically. Keyboard textures soar, organ solos blaze, guitars chug, bass lines flow, drums accurately plot, & voices sing in melody. The only thing it doesn't do is live on any edge whatsoever.
Which is true of many "neo-prog" outfits (or "Progressive Songwriter Oriented Art Rock," as this is being marketed). Many of these newer bands benefit from improved technology (crisper highs and deeper lows than Kansas and Genesis could ever imagine with analog tape in 1975). The technical virtuosity of many of these newer bands like Milo's Craving arguably outdo the abilities of the older bands on a given instrument via musical instruction & formal training. They reproduce at the touch of a finger virtually any sound from the past, due to intense programming skills and more (as displayed by MF keyboard/electronics wiz Klaus P. Rausch). One veteran rocker (I forget just who) put it this way: "We played guitar to get out of school. Now they go to school to play guitar."
But, you can't teach feeling, and what Kansas used to churn out 2 times a year with ease has been morphed into a 3-year studio project. These days, there's so many drop down options available, recording is like analyzing the analysis. On those old Kansas albums, you could feel that these guys already busted ass in bars & clubs to become a good band, and they just laid that down on tape & ran, because those same asses were expected back on the road. I don't know about Milo's Craving's touring agenda, but they sound technically proficient way before they sound like a band.
The More You Know dots all "i's" & crosses all "t's." It's very professional. Vocalist/leader Kathryn Elfman has a solid, pleasant voice, but like her sturdy instrumental counterparts, never gets down & dirty, or ever approaches risk, threat or any raw emotion. There's nothing here that separates MR at all from the crowd.
Not to unfairly compare, but since these are the new guard who are presumably to take "prog" to the next level, we need to. Peter Gabriel wasn't blessed with golden pipes, but what he lacked in technical ability he made up for in guile--in attitude. Rush were technical beasts in their day, but would anyone other than die-hard Rush fanatics name Geddy Lee as one of the top 50 singers in rock? Unlikely, but when it's Rush, you know it instantly because no one—no one—sounds like Geddy Lee.
Which brings us back to the reasons why rock & pop are suddenly so generic. When David Gilmour developed his signature guitar sound, he chained effects together with cords and analog effects boxes into tube amps. That together with his attitude and ability created a sound that had never been heard before, and one that was truly his own. Think about it—when you hear Gilmour, you know, like Lee, that it's him—couldn't be anyone else. What do younger guitarists do now (after attending guitar school)? Hook up to a Line 6 processor and get a sound like everyone else who has the same gear (there might even be a "David Gilmour" setting!). Same with drum loops and digital recording—same, same, same. You can't blame a lot of these modern bands when uniformity reigns. But if you're looking for a reason why Pink Floyd still outsells any and all new bands, that's a good place to start.
The problem I have with so-called "neo-prog" might rest in the term. "Neo," meaning new & different. "Prog," meaning favoring or advocating progress, change. These bands want to be known as outside-the-box thinkers, but really, with their new digital Moogs and old Mellotrons, they're re-hashing a tried and true formula. When Yes recorded whole album sides as a single song in 1972, no one had done it before & actually made money. That mindset was definitely new. Other than becoming technically more proficient, I wonder where many of the newer "prog" bands have become in fact progressive.
As a "prog" concept album, The More You Know, left me with a sterile feeling. I wasn't drenched in sweat like at the end of Metropolis Part II, I wasn't emotionally drained like after Misplaced Childhood or Brave, wasn't ready to throw shit like after Operation Mindcrime. I wasn't even annoyed and skipping over whole sections because they were too experimental for my mood that day like with Topographic Oceans. My point is, even with Yes' controversial concept album, all of the aforementioned albums experimented and took risks that either paid off or didn't, and left the listener with some kind of emotion that was hard to shake after spending an hour + in their fictional world. I didn't travel that emotional rollercoaster with The More You Know. I just kind of appreciated the ability of the musicians while waiting for it to end.
There will be people that love this album, and that's great. Art is the most subjective topic I can think of. People get passionate about music and that's one of it's many strengths; the ability to conjure up feelings & emotions. Unfortunately, for all of it's prowess, Milo's Craving feels like a cold fish.
1) Prince Of Darkness (18:46)
Chapter I When You Fall
Chapter II Closer
Chapter III Beyond Good And Bad
2) Time Machine (2:30)
3) Haunted House (9:55)
4) Wings Of Stone (9:10)
5) Draw The Line (3:10)
6) Come Out (5:20)
7) Will You? (5:51)