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Beardfish: The Sane Day

Guitarist David Zackrisson formed Beardfish in 2000 by with singer and keys man Rikard Sjöblom. Robert Hansen and Magnus Östgren, bass and drums respectively join them for this, their second release. Stefan Aronsson who played flute on the debut disk is absent for this album. This somewhat less than sane concept album is built around the concept of a town given the Zappaesque name of Gooberville and the adventures of one of its citizens. Two disks is a habit they must have caught from fellow Swedes The Flower Kings, as the result is rather too much for the concept and in my view, oddly enough the best material actually appears on disk two.

Beardfish's style is essentially in the neo-progressive camp but, again like the Flower Kings, their eclecticism and technical skills set them apart from many of the run of the mill bands that inhabit this category. The opening song, "Love Story" features a gentle piano intro which builds into a frenetic musical row between our hero and his girlfriend who is about to dump him. The idea is OK, the results, particularly the lyrics and their raucous delivery as a banal 'sung argument' are grating on the ear and, for me at least, intensely irritating. This opening track mentions Frank Zappa somewhere within the lyrics and the second track is typical of his iconoclastic style. "Mudhill" on the other hand is one of the more fascinating pieces, which has some hints of Zappa and Pink Floyd, but with a lazy psychedelic touch to it. "The Gooberville Ballroom dancer" has some hints of Grobschnitt's Rockpommel's Land mixed in with a Zappa like bass and guitar vamp. The silly American voiceovers just annoy me though as there are simply too many of them – sometimes you can try just too hard to ape your heroes. There is however a wonderful guitar solo, again straight out of Frank Zappa's style-book toward the end of the track.

For me, things start to really look up from here. "Igloo on two" starts with a bright guitar and organ instrumental with a melodious scaling bass motif building up to a chaotic synth and drum breakdown to introduce a cleverly composed juxtaposition of simple pop melody and Steely Dan like time signatures. The ten minute "Tall tales" is a delightfully constructed work changing tempos and styles throughout from romantic pop ballads through Gentle Giant inspired guitar/keys sequences to driving rock hip-grinders touched with moments of silliness. David Zackrisson has some mighty tasty guitar work on here as well. A suggestion of RIO on the chord progressions of "The basic blues" before "The Summit" closes disk one with a symphonic Genesis like opening which develops into a languorous piece of distorted guitar, swaying rhythms and lamenting vocal.

The second half to my ears contains the more interesting and original arrangements with less vocals and makes better use of space. It starts out with a jazzy, introspective, piano piece before the rock/soul song "Blue Moon" crashes in with poppy vocals in a high register, like Tears for Fears delivered with Echolyn time signatures. A couple of instrumentals follow, a short piano solo and an excellent bright and breezy guitar, organ and synth composition which has touches of Spocks Beard or Magic Pie to it. "Waiting Room" draws on Hatfield and the North in its complex vocal interplay with the challenging chord progressions. After announcing Miss Gooberville with a tongue in cheek US narrative, the "Mystique of the Beauty Queen" continues the complicated chord and time structure of the Waiting Room, with the Zappa influence creeping back into the vocals and the closing symphonic schmooze. The keyboard parts bring England's "Paraffinalia" to mind at times. Through several of the songs, including the next "Lovers revisited", themes which first emerged on disk one are reprised. There's a great marching guitar solo at the start of "Ask someone who knows" which works its way into a driving keyboard duet before damping the rhythms down to a gentler sequence that is reminiscent of "Keep on Crintin' " from Man's Be good to yourself album. This enjoyable instrumental continues to morph through 4 or 5 different themes before closing out to the laughing Blackpool funhouse clown who was first sampled by King Crimson in "Larks Tongues in Aspic".

Influences come from all over the place – Zappa, Genesis, Canterbury, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Gracious, even some early Britpop and Frankie goes to Hollywood. Despite my personal reservations, which are more a matter of taste, progressive rock fans really need to give this band a listen as they are undoubtedly very creative and not afraid to mix it up a bit. Some more control over content would be good though as the band seem to want to cram everything plus the kitchen sink into the package. Mind you, if you asked 10 different people what to cut you would get 10 different answers so that may be easier said than done!

Track Listing
Disk One
1. A love story
2. Sun is the Devil
3. Mudhill
4. The Gooberville Ballroom dancer
5. Igloo on two
6. Tall tales
7. The basic blues
8. The summit
Disk Two
9. The sane day
10. Blue moon
11. Do you remember fun mom?
12. Return to mudhill
13. Miss Gooberville
14. Mystique of the beauty queen
15. Love revisited
16. Ask someone who knows
17. Now
18. The reason of constructing and/or building a pyramid

Added: March 4th 2008
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Progress Records
Hits: 4383
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Beardfish: The Sane Day
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-03-04 10:08:17
My Score:

Despite the overblown nature of this sprawling 2CD set (seems like everyone is trying to outdo The Flower Kings these days), there's a whimsical and very likeable element to The Sane Day that is hard to ignore. Kudos to Progress Records for reissuing this overlooked 2005 release from Beardfish, who certainly wear their influences on their sleeves (Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson), but manage to create some satisfying modern progressive rock with plenty of melody, bombast, and instrumental noodling. Hammonds, Moogs, and exciting guitar solos abound throughout The Sane Day, and while the whole 'concept' of Gooberville might be a tad silly for some, give the band credit for taking a lightheared approach to a prog concept album. Some of the best tunes are the lengthy ones, when the band rips into some inspired Zappa-meets-Gentle Giant styled jams, complete with tricky jazz passages and adventurous measures of complex counterpoint. If you like waves of 70's sounding keyboard jaunts, then numbers like "Tall Tales", "Now", and "The Reason of Constructing and/or Building a Pyramid" will really fit the bill.

While I prefer their Sleeping In Traffic, Part 1 release from 2007, as it's a bit more focused overall and showed the growth the band acheived since this 2005 album, The Sane Day is still an enjoyable slice of modern prog from this little band known as Beardfish.

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