Modest Midget: Crysis
With a name like Modest Midget you can almost guarantee that you're not going to get an easy ride and right from the kick off that how it proves...
Crysis is the second album from the might double M, a troupe led by Lonny Ziblat, a classically trained composer, arranger, orchestrator who also creates scores for film and TV productions. Did I mention he's also a guitarist and keyboard player? Oh and that he sings too? He does let others join in though, bassist Maarten Bakker, drummer Willem Smid and piano/keyboard player Tristan Hope rounding out the line-up. Although there's also an impressive list of pianists, violinists, oboists (is that a word? Yes? oh...), saxists and flutelonians as well.
So what's the Crysis (yes, it's spelled like that) then? Well ModMid have threaded a concept round the cycles of life (possibly where that pesky "y" comes from?) which grabs whatever style of music happens to be wandering by and gently caresses it with a cudgel until it becomes a thing of beauty, or a quirk of quirkiness. Think Gentle Giant molesting Zappa, via some easyoasy 70 Pop and you'll brush past what's been moulded and scolded on this album.
To begin... "The Grand Opening Gates" is, well the sound of something grand....opening. It's big, lush, short and leads into the curio that is "A Centurion's Itchy Belly", the (lovely and long) press notes refer to cartoon characters Asterix and Obelix (no, they do), yet once the fanfare like grandiosity dies down, Elton John appears (he doesn't really, but someone's stolen his piano and wheeled into Crysis) to grandly stab out some chords, before an acoustic guitar and staccato beat reveal something rather inspired, or a leftover from a kid's TV show. Either way the music fits the imagery of the song's title perfectly. And there's xylophone and an accordion solo. Confused? Oh how!
So it's going to be one of those albums? All quirk, no smirk. What's this? "Rocky Valley Of Dawn" (an expectant farther mentally prepares for the arrival of his newborn – we seem to be on track for the overall concept now…maybe) in a rocking, almost punky romp. Yes there are layers of joy to discover here, before "Praise The Day" becomes an acoustic croon. It's also quite good. From lullaby to Queen like grandeur, although via a big dripping slice of Proggy keyboards and then, weeeeeeere off again, darting outbursts dancing round sweet melodies the Beatles would have proudly called their own.
And so the ride continues through ups and downs, crazy cajoling and smooth selections. It's like life itself (ahhh, that's the point? I see). "Periscope Down" soothes and caresses, and "Flight Of The Cockroach" scurries and worries, "Secret Lies" becomes a Pop Rock ballad of decades long gone by (highlighting Ziblat's soaring vocals and scything guitar work as it does so), "Gone Is" a beautiful deft touch of emotional outpouring - there's no doubt this is the love and lost section - while "Crises (Awake Of The Sheep)" (at last we find the missing "i"!) is where Modest lead us into a song about leaders leading us in a leaderless kind of way.
Which finally leaves us "Birth" (shouldn't that be first???? Oh, no, we're squaring the circle…keep up) which is a helping of stunning commercial rock that really could be a hit! I can only imagine what the masses would make of the album though. Ouch!
Modest Midget aren't modest, they're ebullient, and neither are they midgets, for this album is at times huge. The end result is a journey with so many left turns you should end up back where you started, which you do. And don't. Is it good? Ask Asterix and Obelix, they seem to know what's going on...
1. The Grand Gate Opening
2. A Centurion's Itchy Belly
3. Rocky Valleys of Dawn
4. Praise the Day
5. Now That We're Here
6. Periscope Down
7. (Oh)Pretty Woman
8. Flight of the Cockroach
9. Secret Lies
10. Gone Is
11. Crisis (Awake of the Sheep)
Added: December 1st 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Modest Midget online
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