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Lord, Bob: Playland Arcade

I’ve only previously experienced the music of Bob Lord through his bass work with the excellent Dreadnaughts, an eccentric but focused outfit who fall broadly into the progisphere. Here Lord is out on his own and making hay in his Playland Arcade. How best to describe this album? Hmmmm…. It’s a tough call. Is it a soundtrack? Maybe a stream of thoughts across 19 tracks? Or simply an experiment in creativity that doesn’t play by any rules, while still not really asking its potential audience to step too far from any areas they might already spend their musical time in.

In the end though, I can’t help but feel that Playland Arcade comes across as an avant-garde, virtuosic ‘library album’, where different themes, ideas and atmospheres are delivered from track to track - some running to over 5 minutes, some barely squeezing past 20 seconds. It all makes for a thrilling ride and one where I must admit, a big grin has spread across my face on many an occasion. And yet, as a listening experience from start to finish, the constant flit-flit-flit of styles and approaches becomes a little bedazzling.

Don’t think from any of the above that we’re mucking about here, Lord has enlisted a vast array of musicians to bring these mainly instrumental pieces to life, with the man himself handling bass and occasional vocals, Hammond, percussion, keys, programming, piano and guitar. The guy is a talent and no dispute but knowing to surround himself with equally gifted musicians along the way elevates what could be seen as throwaway moments into interesting experiences. Reviewing all 19 tracks is nigh on impossible, but the opening “Fry Doe”, which hits like a synth-driven Westcoast extravaganza, closing “Siege”, where the feel is more vintage computer game, and mid-album “Wyoming Voices”, where we’re whisked to a more restrained High Chaparral, live long in the mind. It’s also maybe no coincidence that they are also some of the lengthier moments because, in truth, getting the same connection with the 36 seconds of Big-Band that is “Lobster Roll” or frantic electronic bleep and bloop of the 12 second “Skee Ball” is much less likely as they hit a little like fleeting curios.

And so it goes as the shout and whoop of “Yo Soy Miguel” brings sheer joy to your world, while “Beach Pizza” and its determined trudge proves more standoffish. In the end, superbly performed though this all is, as an album to sit down and listen to, I must admit this isn’t for me, fun though most of it may well be.

Track Listing
1. Fry Doe (4:02)
2. Hey (0:07)
3. Yo Soy Miguel (2:06)
4. In For The Kill (1:24)
5. Night Sweats (3:15)
6. Lobster Roll (0:35)
7. The Backward Swan (2:32)
8. Air Hockey (1:40)
9. Intermezzo (0:51)
10. Skee Ball (0:12)
11. Wyoming Vice (3:35)
12. Get Yer Drink Up (1:43)
13. Beach Pizza (0:43)
14. Tenderly (3:26)
15. Opening Day (0:21)
16. Fanfare for a Losing Team (2:38)
17. Mighty Forces (4:13)
18. Last Word (1:11)
19. Siege (5:15)

Added: June 16th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Bob Lord @ bandcamp
Hits: 471
Language: english

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