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41point9: Mr. Astute Trousers

Eight years is a long time to wait for a band to provide a follow up to what was a much acclaimed debut. The first 41point9 offering, Still Looking For The Answers, landing in 2011 with a stunning mix of progressive ideals and an AOR delivery. Formed round the duo of Bob Madsen (bass and production) and ex-Enchant frontman Brian Cline (lead and backing vocals), the pair were joined by guitarist and keyboard player Kenny Steel. Remaining intact for album number two, Mr.Astute Trousers, the threesome are joined by some able guests, with Mike Vanderhule (Y&T) manning the drums and Chad Quist augmenting the guitars.

For those who got acquainted with the debut, the continuation of the 41P9 sound is easy to pick out, the two minute or so intro of “When Valkyries Cry” building a grandiose atmosphere that gives way to a shimmering pop strut in the shape of “For The King”. Here the shards of striking guitar hit like Rush at their most austere, but there’s also a pensive, powerful side to what’s presented that adds another dimension. Confusingly, my CD player then tells me I’m listening to, via a short but mighty riff, the 80s clink and clank meets Tyketto of “The Marine”, when the track listing on the back of the CD packaging decides to completely omit this rather excellent collision of styles.

From there we’re back on track (listing) “Confessions At Midnight” following the path laid out elsewhere of biting, but spartan guitars, sharp pointed keyboards, 80s ‘effects’ and a boinging bass boom. On this outing it’s a steady, slow revelation of sensuous pop sensations with a prog heart, whereas “The Black Line” is so smooth it actually hints towards a Toto sound. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. From there “Tilting At Windmills”, give or take a smart little intro, turns into one of those instrumentals that Rush used to punctuate their albums with, revealing itself to be a highlight in the process. Leaving two songs proper to see the main album out, “These Four Lands” a much more obvious, if still intricately constructed, slice of melodic rock, while “Don’t Cut The Roses” thrums and hums, before a scintillating guitar and saxophone stand off surprises the ear. And that’s that… or is it? Because we then get the folk tinged AOR of “Big Data”; a track that’s listed on the CD’s rear cover as a bonus , but with it being followed by the uncredited “...And Now”, which literally announces… ‘and now for something totally different, here’s some bonus tracks...’, who knows what’s going on? What does happen is “The Loch”, an even more obviously folk aimed outing, before “Familiar Strangers” soothes the album to a close in an almost west coast like shimmer.

The rather shoddy work on the packaging aside, the enigmatically titled Mr. Astute Trousers is almost as left field as its name suggests. The musicianship is superb and special mention is also due to the expert arrangements throughout. In places the production/mix could maybe, baring in mind how pointed this band’s approach is, have been a little sharper, but that’s nit picking. There’s a lot to take in when 41point9 convene and this second album proves no different. The results are worthy of your time and patience, however, the blatantness of some of the more commercial flavours - which is a real boon for me - may prove to be something of a stumbling block for others. Still, this is a welcome and unusual change of pace from the norm and on that scale alone deserves to be taken seriously.

Track Listing
1. When Valkyries Cry 
2. For the King 
3. The Marine
4. Confessions at Midnight
5. The Black Line
6. Tilting at Windmills
7. These Four Lands
8. Don't Cut Down the Rose
9. Big Data
10. ...and Now
11. The Loch
12. Familiar Strangers

Added: March 2nd 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: 41point9 on Facebook
Hits: 1126
Language: english

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41point9: Mr. Astute Trousers
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-03-03 02:48:28
My Score:

The beginnings of 41Point9 go all the way back to 1995 when Bob Madsen first met Brian Cline. After ten years they decided to form the band and released Still Looking For Answers in 2011. It has been quite a long time to wait but in 2018 they released their sophomore effort Mr. Astute Trousers. Also playing on the new album is guitarist Kenny Steel.

I am really loving this platter, a mixture of AOR and progressive rock with tasty melodies and excellent musicianship. Bands like Enchant, Rush and Spock’s Beard all came to mind at various times throughout the disc. The first track “When Valkyries Cry” begins with a distant choral vocal amidst a muted arrangement until a clean guitar breaks out of the fold and the sounds become more symphonic. This leads directly into “For The King” with its great bass line and Rush-like rhythm guitar. Asia also comes to mind, particularly in the keyboard work as well as Deep Purple at times. I’m thinking the keyboards in “Perfect Strangers”. On the light and heavy “The Marine” the sound has a Spock’s Beard feel, especially in the vocals. The big crunchy riffs, strings and mellow poignancy all work amazingly well. “Confessions At Midnight” has a modern alternative rock sound mixed with fine keyboards and another addictive chorus. I hear a bit of latter day Saga in this one. “The Black Line” features a lovely piano and more catchiness staying firmly in AOR territory but with cool guitar riffs, ripping bass and gentler acoustic guitar. On “Tilting At Windmills” the Alex Lifeson-like guitar work really comes to life along with fast bass runs and a full-fledged progressive minded intent. Excellent sax and gorgeous backing vocals highlight the classy “Don’t Cut Down The Rose” while “Familiar Strangers” is a soulfully smooth ride recalling Steely Dan or Toto.

41Point9 have made an excellent follow up that has definitely been worth the wait. Easily recommended.

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