Review – Comedy of Errors – Time Machine

From Glasgow Scotland, Comedy of Errors are a progressive rock band playing in their own distinctive style. They have a notable live presence dating back to the 1980s and were contemporaries of bands like Marillion and IQ, but for some unknown reason never released an album until they reformed in 2010. Since 2010’s ‘Disobey’, the band have released three further long players before a five year hiatus until 2022’s ‘Time Machine’.

The one thing that I have always loved about this band is, despite obvious nods to the bands of the so-called ‘Neo-Prog’ era, they have resolutely ploughed their own furrow, resulting in a distinct sound that could only emanate from these talented Scotsmen. It is definitely progressive rock but it is Comedy of Errors‘ take on that music and has produced such gems as 2015’s ‘Spirit’ and 2017’s ‘House of the Mind’.

So, after five years, it’s been a welcome return from this reviewer’s point of view and a rather splendid one too! This new release is chock full of the intelligent songwriting and stellar musicianship that always graces a Comedy of Errors release, soaring chords, immaculate guitar playing, effortless keyboards and dynamic drums, all backed by Joe Cairney’s always fine vocal performance.

Leading the fanfare this time is the flawless keyboard playing of Jim Johnstone, who also wrote all the music and lyrics on the album. Opener The Knight Returns, which has its origins in a track written in the 80’s, is a rollicking prog ride into medieval times, almost a musical gallop if you like. You can feel it’s 80’s roots but they’re brought bang up to date by Johnstone’s songwriting prowess and the superb guitar work of Sam McCulloch and Mark Spalding is a delight, as it is throughout this enjoyable romp. As album openers go, it certainly gets you in the mood for what is to come! Lost Demigods has nods to musical greats throughout (not all from recent centuries either!) and references a lot of Johnstone’s heroes, Isaac Newton, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Shakespeare and more. The song definitely heads in to the more popular music side of progressive rock but is none the worse for it with its fast tempo and Joe’s great vocals (sounds to me like he’s loving it actually!).

The band’s serious side is shown on the epic and outstanding Wonderland, a treatise on the rise and fall of the supposedly most powerful nation on the planet, America. Social and political commentary have rarely been delivered in such an impeccable fashion in the music industry and it’s a testament to a songwriter and band at the height of their powers. A brooding masterpiece of a song that ramps up the tension note by note and word by word and is sure to be a live highlight of the band’s upcoming shows. The cacophonous crash of keyboards, guitars and drums and Joe’s intense, solemn vocals tell the damning tale perfectly. I always love an instrumental on a progressive album and Comedy of Errors don’t let me down with the wistful, whimsical wonder of The Past Of Future Days, grounded on John Fizgerald’s elegant bass playing. A glorious showcase for keys and guitar, this track will definitely leave you smiling.

The main album closes with the heart wrenching but beautiful lament of title track Time Machine, a plaintive ode to loss and regret that is underpinned initially by a gentle piano and Joe’s forlorn vocal. This elegantly mournful song continues to build patiently as it gets under your skin and begins to take hold of your emotions, the basic premise seeming to be about building a time machine to see those we have lost once more. It’s full of a painfully stirring, melancholic spirit but is so wonderfully performed that it really touches your soul. Not ones to quit while ahead, we are then treated to a dynamic and brilliant live version of the band’s classic track Disobey, recorded live at their 2016 performance from RosFest. While the song doesn’t fit with the main album proper, it is a worthy addition and a reminder of Comedy of Errors‘ dominating stage presence.

After a long five year absence, ‘Time Machine’ is a fine return from one of progressive rock’s premier artists and an album that I am constantly revisiting. Cementing Comedy of Errors‘ status as one of the foremost artists in the genre, it is sure to be one of 2022’s most welcome releases.

Released 23rd September, 2022.

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