Artist: The New World Ancients
Wow. The opening track of Temporal Beast, "Eternal Return," had me thinking my listening experience would be Bono singing over Depeche Mode -- U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," in other words. Then "Shapeshifter" started, and the vocal recalled Tomahawk's Mike Patton and Jesus Lizard's David Yow. But then "Word to the Unwise" began, the vocal was a dead ringer for Talking Heads' David Byrne ("Progress is messy / But success is sexy / Progress is necessary / And excess is customary"), and I gave up trying to classify them altogether. So I just enjoyed.
The New World Ancients rock at the intersection of experimental and progressive. The musicians involved are studio-caliber professionals that give a song exactly what it needs and nothing more. But all of that would be just showing off if the parts didn't mesh. And boy do they ever: on a track like "Two Sirens," the band's proficiency couldn't be more clear.
Not unlike English progressive rockers, Mansun, TNWA writes songs that move the listener, have him convinced he's heard something original, and leave a lasting impact rivaled only by the band's ambition to do something completely new. As the track unfolds, we get a spaghetti western with its bending acoustic guitar notes and harmonica. But what comes next? Clanging guitar not often heard outside of Sonic Youth noise rock. The sinew connecting these dramatic scenes is a falsetto resembling Mansun's Paul Draper or even Radiohead's Thom Yorke. Actually, this song, with its vocal, guitar tones, and second-half jam, could have made it onto Radiohead's seminal OK Computer.
On "Caesar!," and like Radiohead's "Life in a Glasshouse," TNWA brings the horns; but these horns are confirmation of the Squirrel Nut Zippers' notion that there exists a jazzy night club in hell. On "In Defense of Man or the Destroyer Returns," after prominent bass lines -- and yes, the rhythm section is so good that TNWA can and does build songs around it -- we get skilled vocal phrasing of excellent lyrics, "Fear / Is a powerful emotion / It does wonders to a man's otherwise reasonable notions of plausibility / And as for me, I do, I do, I feel a certain responsibility / For the work my hands have done." (And then we get gentle, precious singing about birds, which sets up more hard rock.)
Simply put, TNWA is good. Really good. And so again I say wow.
*** The author of this review, Douglas Edwards, plays the dabakan for the following band: http://youtu.be/tMS73-1kCr8