Yet another hardy soul has taken the responsibility of writing a review for you goodly folk, this time we welcome Shawn Dudley with the pen (or should we say keyboard?).
One recurring theme with my music purchases over the past 10 years has been a constant stream of bands from Sweden. The country has provided a surfeit of riches and one of the most valuable is the wonderfully eclectic and enthralling Beardfish.
Their 8th studio album ‘+4626-Comfortzone’ is another meticulously arranged addition to an already impressive string of releases.
After a short thematic introduction Hold On wastes no time demonstrating the many traits that drew me to Beardfish in the first place. The love of vintage instrumentation and production sounds, the knotty and complex arrangements that would make Gentle Giant proud, the occasional side trips into Zappa-esque absurdity, the uniquely personal songwriting of Rikard Sjöblom and, last but not least, their love of “the jam”. The joyous melding of progressive rock precision with the loose improvisational vibe of a late night jam session, they remind me of Nektar in this regard.
Thematically ‘Comfortzone’ is more dense and layered than the relatively straight-ahead approach of 2013’s ‘The Void’. Thus it’s not quite as immediate an experience and takes a few spins to really process. The narrative focuses on the apathy and complacency that can result from growing up in a small town, the feeling of being trapped yet not wanting to lose the comfort and security that familiarity provides. As someone that grew up in a small rural community of under 500 residents the subject matter of this album holds special relevance. A town populated by people watching the world pass by from their front porch…as if they were nailed there.
While lyrically the album can be a little bleak, the music never is. The playing is uniformly excellent and years of lineup stability has given them a rock solid cohesion. The mix is well balanced and uses a wide stereo spread, it’s a little compressed but not overtly.
Individual track highlights include the aforementioned Hold On, the lovely title track (some great Robert Fripp inspired guitar work in the intro on that one), the viking-rock riffage of King and the album centerpiece If We Must Part (A Love Story Continued). Special mention to the comic-relief provided by the hilarious Ode to A Rock ’N’ Roller, in a genre that primarily takes itself very seriously, the quirky humor of Beardfish is always a welcome change of pace.
While I’m thrilled that Rikard Sjöblom has been contributing to Big Big Train of late, I hope he still finds the time to continue the Beardfish journey. The only thing more exciting than a new Beardfish album…is the prospect of what the next one will be like.
Released 12th January 2015
About the author – Shawn Dudley
Shawn Dudley, Los Angeles, CA.
Audio engineer, film buff, guitarist, lifelong music fanatic.