‘Only Passing Through’, the third Pattern Seeking Animals album has landed and, yes, it is another goodie. A fine set of modern progressive rock tracks, inspired by the greats, but no mere copy or imitation, this set takes the genre and gives it a contemporary twist and shake.
Let me explain the concept, John Boegehold, who has been a lyricist for Spock’s Beard for the past decade, had amassed a wealth of material that, whilst progressively inclined, were not suitable for the band. So John started a new project in which he could realise his vision of marrying his progressive leanings with modern pop/rock music where melodies were king. Hence Pattern Seeking Animals came into being. Using current Spock’s Beard alumni Ted Leonard (vocals and guitars), Dave Meros (bass) and Jimmy Keegan (drums), the project became reality, releasing their debut, self-titled album, in 2018 and the follow up ‘Prehensile Tales’ some 9 months later and the stage was set. The band line up also includes John himself on keyboards and programming and he also oversees the production with Rich Mouser performing the engineering, mixing and mastering side of things.
John says that his aim is to make music that is always trying something new or unexpected and that changes as it plays. He is a skilled writer and he has risen to the challenge by making interesting and intelligent albums. Then came lockdown and Covid. However, they have not been idle and have created this latest release which continues the goal of providing a new twist on progressive music. This time we are treated to several new twists on progressive rock with John also using brass enhancements on some songs.
The song Time Has A Way uses several novel innovations in its sound to make the album’s longest track really something a bit special. Changes in tempo and the ebullient brass section really raise the bar on this fabulous song. One could compare this sound to Big Big Train and their use of a brass ensemble to bring extra dynamics to their sound. The brass is used sparingly but effectively, adding rather than swamping everything, a lone trumpet adding a mariachi element to proceedings too, which is certainly different yet a highly enjoyable and effective take on the sound. This song is a monster and really a highlight of the album, symphonic prog at its finest.
Ted Leonard is on good form vocally and he plays some very graceful guitar melodies, he has really matured as a guitarist over the three albums the band have released and it is good to hear his skills on these songs. Also worthy of note are the rhythm section of Meros and Keegan, who bare both really both driving and supporting these efforts as appropriate. Sometimes on the beat, other times driving or pulling it along with them, all highly impressive sounding. I think it would be fair say that I really am enjoying this album.
Rock Paper Scissors is another fine track, if not a bit different. The violin part by Rini shines and puts me in mind of vintage Kansas as Ted Leonard projects his inner Steve Walsh. This is, in fact, extremely high praise as Kansas are one of my favourite bands ever, with this section of the track evoking many happy memories of that group. Much Ado is a riff driven track with quite unusual lyrics that talk of depression and a lack of will or desire to do anything for oneself. Whilst the lyrics could be seen as depressing, there is a lot going on in this song musically, plus it has a great guitar break from Ted. Only Passing Through is a song about the temporary nature of our lives, especially how we are only passing through this world. It is a beautifully written and composed track and one that certainly makes you think.
Said The Stranger is another highlight and a mariachi inspired track. It is one that thunders along with a great guitar break thrown in for good measure, there are interesting lyrics to this one too. The final song on the album, Here With You With Me, is a ballad of sorts, albeit one with more prog than a normal syrupy ballad. It has great words and sound with lots happening musically. The track is a terrific number on which to end, although the cd version has two bonus tracks, I Am Not Alright and Just Another Day At The Beach. You do not really want an album this good to end so the extra seven and a half extra minutes are very welcome indeed!
The first bonus song is about mental health issues and is dealt with in a sympathetic and delicate manner. It is very well written and observed, whether this springs from personal experience or mere observation is not clear. It is a powerful statement either way and is an issue that should be written about, especially now in the wake of covid and lockdown life and the problems that has both created and exacerbated for many folks. The other bonus track is far more upbeat and cheerful sounding although it does say that when it comes to love we are all on our own swimming, treading water or going down another time!
So, even within the happy song there is an undercurrent of sadness or darkness. Even so, this is a very strong and highly enjoyable musical statement of intent from Pattern Seeking Animals, long may it continue.
Released 1st April, 2022.
Order the album from Burning Shed here: