Those Men: Theman Simpulse
Progressive rock has always been criticized for its pretentious ambitions and grandiose concepts. In opposition to the simple, cliché ideas of mainstream music, the genre prides itself on overblown music, vocals and storytelling. Perhaps nowhere in the history of progressive rock is this more evident than with Theman Simpulse, the sprawling new concept album by Those Men. With an almost inconceivably intricate storyline, consistently intriguing music, and sheer originality of form, it borders on genius, but at the same time, it somewhat collapses under its own weight. Still, it's a remarkable project.
Those Men is the English duo of Martin Clarke and Mark Elliott. Besides writing the entire story, they play almost everything on it. Conceptually, it revolves around a man named Theman Simpulse journeying through his own subconscious to discover himself. Throughout the piece, he meets several other characters, and just about every song is bookended by an authoritative English narrator who attempts to explain what's going on. While the album is actually two and a half hours long, the entire story takes place within four seconds thematically (it's so complex—or ridiculous—that Those Men have included a novella to help listeners follow along).
Musically, it's a melting pot of styles. Most of the time, it's akin to late 1960s Brit psychedelic music like The Pretty Things, Procol Harum, and even David Bowie. Of course, there's also touches of Brian Eno ("The Hanging Head Man"), Pink Floyd (especially vocally), and literally dozens of other artists. Theman Simpulse never ventures too far from this grounding, but each track brings a new style or production technique to the fold. The most progressive track is the fifteen minute opener to disc two, "Ignacious Pig Freak"—it's filled with odd sounds and a soft/hard rock balance that easily brings S.F. Sorrow to mind. Honestly, the most impressive thing about Theman Simpulse is how much is feels like it's an old album; while countless artists emulate rock music from 1967-73, Those Men have mastered every subtlety and nuance needed to fool listeners.
With forty-one tracks, Those Men offer plenty of different moods. There are soft love ballads ("Theoretical Love," "The Handcradling Woman"), eclectic goofiness ("The Skelton Man," "Evolution"), and serious rockers ("Recreation Day," "Big Car"). Much of the album is full of great 60s pop weirdness, and some tracks, like "Submarine Smile," "Up The Chute," and "Mutation," are simply great, unique melodies. Theman Simpulse is an extremely varied and fantastical musical voyage throughout
An album so bloated with music and ideas is bound to have a few shortcomings. Primarily, it's perhaps the most confusing and unfocused narrative I've ever heard in music. Theman Simpulse makes The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Scenes From A Memory,Operation: Mindcrime, and The Wall (just to name a few) appear as easy-to-follow children's books. Also, while the narrator is a colorful and interesting tool for exposition, he appears too much; nearly every track begins, ends, or does both with his insight. Finally, because the music and story is so crazy, it's easy to lose focus and interesting, allowing your mind to wonder into daydreams as the album plays. In a way, Theman Simpulse is too much of a good thing.
Despite its flaws, Theman Impulse is extremely fascinating for those who have the time and patience to digest it all. It's full of great songs, nostalgic music, and some of the weirdness ideas the genre has yet seen. It's quite a chore to listen to it in one session, but overall, it's definitely worth it. Those Men have crafted one of the most ambitious, original, and experimentally brave albums of the last thirty years. In fact, it's quite difficult to discuss everything about Theman Simpulse in a concise review; it's something you have to hear for yourself.
- Do You Believe In The Fire In Your Soul? (3:47)
- Unbelievable Skin (2:40)
- The Clean And Mutant Peace Tunnel (3:32)
- Recreation Day (4:10)
- A Piece Of The Bridge (7:03)
- D.N.A. (5:21)
- The Symhony Unfolds (4:14)
- The Hanging Head Man (4:14)
- Backwards Somersaults (3:00)
- The Confused Catfish (4:09)
- Mutation (5:08)
- Evolution (4:02)
- Kryptolebias Marmoratus (4:31)
- Down The Peace Hole (2:06)
- The Handcradling Woman (2:29)
- The Skelton (3:58)
- Big Car (3:38)
- Bowl Of Jealousy (3:24)
- Theoretical Love (4:16)
- Ignacious Pig Freak (15:02)
- Suddenly (5:11)
- Submarine Smile (5:54)
- Guilt (2:49)
- The Sex Chamber (1:28)
- What Colour Was The Badger Roadkill? (4:37)
- An Evolving Landscape (3:47)
- Thick Yeasty Dark Brown Savoury Spread That Is Generally Only Available In The
- United Kingdom, South Africa And The Antipodes (3:27)
- Up The Chute (6:47)
- The Air Song (2:12)
- I'm Going To Field (2:01)
- Raven's Alt (0:54)
- Boulders And Clay (1:06)
- Lunacy Of Love (1:09)
- Backswimmers And Boatmen (1:04)
- The Puddle That Never Dries (0:56)
- The Men Will Dance With Butterflies (1:34)
- The Dreams Come (2:02)
- Germination And The Seed Grows (1:15)
- Preconditions Unshackling (1:22)
- Tractor Yang Man (2:50)
- What Would You Say If You Had To Eat Yourself Today? (6:26)
Added: April 3rd 2011
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band MySpace Page
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|Those Men: Theman Simpulse
Posted by Mark Elliott on 2011-11-24 18:12:30
Thank you so much for this review. We were completely amazed and uplifted when we read it.
Cheers Mark and Martin.
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