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Vital Might, The: Red Planet
Red Planet is the second album from Boston's The Vital Might and with it they have managed to successfully blend quite a few influences into what is a classy mix of progressive, funky, straight ahead, indie rock. Now if that all sounds a bit like a miss match of styles, fear not, because the results are accessible, yet intricate progressive songs with mainstream sensibilities.
"Phantom Spaceman" bursts into life with tension raising strings, a staccato riff and a passionate vocal, suddenly it sways into a gentle funk that wouldn't be out of place on a Red Hot Chilli Peppers album, although without the insincerity that band revel in these days, before heading back into the straining riff. It's an uncompromising start with Andy Milk virtually screaming in places to be heard over his own guitar wail, but boy is it effective.
"The Truth" sees Milk maintain his urgent vocal approach, although this time he is riding on a thumping bass line from Rick Gauthier and impressive percussion from Evan Kraker who provides a slightly less frenetic pace than before, illustrating that The Vital Might are adept at getting a strong message across in a variety of ways.
Track three "City" once more takes us in a different direction, with a dreamy feel over a restrained marching beat. It's this slower more considered approach that really sees Red Planet find its groove, the simple arrangement allowing Milk to show off his voice to full affect. He comes over as a mix of Julian Raymond (Flesh+Blood/Dear Mr. President) and Todd Kerns (The Age Of Electric) and it has to be said that in these stripped back surroundings it's a very effective weapon indeed, sucking you in to hang on his every word.
Just in case you are getting comfy "Trouble" blows away the melancholy with a riff Soundgarden would have loved to own, although the slightly over blown group vocals ensure that Chris Cornell and his ex mates don't linger in the mid too long.
At just over four and a half minutes the repetitive riff of instrumental "Chime" over stays its welcome slightly, there's nothing wrong with the music, in fact it is as awkwardly enigmatic as what has gone before, but without Milk's unsettling vocal chords it feels a little empty.
There's a hint of U2's The Edge jamming with Bob Mould on "Saturday" as it sways from the chiming guitar lick to the Sugar like main riff. It's another catchy, yet off kilter track. As with so much of what is on show on Red Planet it's easy to sing along with the chorus and there are loads of hooks to latch onto and bury their way into the mid, however there's always enough subtly deceptive anger just under the surface to prevent it from being "radio friendly".
The short and beautiful "Seasons" has atmosphere to lose yourself in before it segues into the simply stunning "5 O'clock". The plaintive guitar and vocal intro slowly build and build until Milk explodes into the second chorus with a wonderful vocal that once more glides on the fantastic rhythms locked into place by Gauthier and Kraker. It's genuinely one of the best songs I've heard all year.
Never happy to let you settle in, "Superstitious Wish" once more funks things up a little before Milk blurts out more words than you can take in over another controlled yet wild beat. It's this ability to comfortably alter the mood, feel and pace of the album both from track to track and within the songs themselves that makes Red Planet as compelling as it is and keep you coming back for more.
"The Greatest Man" clocks in a just over seven minutes and is as close as The Vital Might get to an old school prog work out, with a slight early Genesis vibe running alongside a hard edged modern sound. As is in evidence elsewhere it shares The Pineapple Thief's ability to sound both seventies inspired yet bang up to date.
The album closes with "Sleeping Beauty" which after the mini epic proportions that came before falls a little flat. The slow grungy riff is like a Nirvana 7" played at 33rpm. When put up against the sharp incisiveness on show across the rest of the album it is just too straight forward and downbeat and sounds a little out of place.
Putting that aside there is a huge amount to recommend about The Vital Might, the ease with which they slide from one mood to another is inspirational and with the deft mix of catchy memorable chorus' and the intricate edgy instrumental sections there's a huge potential for crossover appeal.
The Vital Might have the sort of fresh approach to progressive rock that deserves mainstream success and with a slice of luck Red Planet may see them achieve just that.
1. Phantom Spaceman
2. The Truth
8. 5 O'clock
9. Superstitious Wish
10. The Greatest Man
11. Sleeping Beauty
Added: August 15th 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band Website
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