Review – Fish on Friday – 8mm by John Wenlock- Smith

Often it seems to me that I review albums from the same bands on a regular basis. Whilst this may have some event of truth, it’s more because I have found the sort of prog that appeals to me the most. This is probably the reason why I have reviewed all five previous Fish On Friday studio releases, originally for DPRP, latterly TPA and now for Progradar. This can make these reviews a bit similar but then the bands sound has not changed greatly since their debut ‘Shoot The Moon’, although there have been changes, especially when Nick Beggs joined the band. ‘8mm’ is their new album, and the first since 2020’s ‘Black Rain’ album and, whilst that had a darker tone in part because of the pandemic, this one is a lot more upbeat with some great songs.

As with all previous FoF albums, there is a lot of lightness of touch in the playing and, once again, the ghost of The Alan Parsons Project is seldom very distant. This time the addition of Nick Beggs as co-producer has paid significant dividends, as do his vocals that add and weave well with those of Frank Van Bogaert. The additional voice of Lula Beggs on several tracks also adds to the overall consistency of the album.

The album begins with the track 8mm which is a song of memories or loss of a loved one. It is quite gentle and downbeat, although it does build in intensity as it continues. Collateral Damage has excellent bass/Chapman Stick from Nick that powers the song along. Again, this track is about relationships and how we can damage each other at times. Then we have cover from 1970’s band Metro’s self-titled 1977 album that impacted upon Frank and so he chose to highlight this much forgotten band on this album by covering the track Flames. This has been done in a respectful and intelligent way by not changing very much, apart from giving the songs both a platform along with a better production value. Overture To Flames has some chunky, funky riffing and a good bass-heavy part over sequencers. It is mainly instrumental apart from ethereal voices and has a picked guitar and strong bass notes. It is only a short, but very atmospheric and leads into Flames itself and a delicate vocal part.

Then we have a different style of collaboration with a Flemish musician Sofie Dykmans, who heard a piece played during lockdown and contacted the band, offering to write some lyrics for the track, with the song Jump This Wall being the result. This is a bit of an epic with lots of massed keyboard swathes and a strident step to it. Lots of good rumbling bass lines in the song help the song have pulse and pace in equal measure, A delicate flute part from Theo Travis assists in this track before yielding to a saxophone solo, again by Theo, that adds grace. Hopefully they could write together again as this track is great. This is followed by the harder, more propulsive, track Don’t Lose Your Spirit with a good descending riff, Hammond Organ and a busy bass part playing to the audience. A great fluid guitar line is played before the song switches tack and vocals commence. The song is about changes, possibly climate change, and how we wont notice fully until it is too late.

Funerals is actually rather quirky, as it deals with two people who only ever seem to see each other at funerals. It’s a song of unrequited wanting and longing for another. Lyrically it is very interesting and slightly unsettling, although the more upbeat dancing section works very well, as does the acoustic guitar instrumental that floats over it all. The song then returns to its previous tempo but overall this is a winner of a track and greatly impresses. With Fish On Friday you have to dig beneath the surface to get to the heart of the music and it’s a very rewarding listening experience when you do. Silently Raging follows, this has Lula Beggs sharing lead vocals to great effect. Instillers is a quieter, more downbeat, song and is very, initially at least, before a Chapman Stick part is played which increases the volume greatly, adding power to track which is itself a plea for us to instil positive values to our world and peace, grace and love towards each other.

The penultimate track is A New Home, which is another very atmospheric track with more superb bass accompaniment and slide guitar sounds over sweeping synthesisers and keyboards. Again, there is the call for love to be shown and cultivated in our lives. This track has a most effective and fabulous sound where Lula Beggs vocals feature once more and she does a great job. The final song, Life Is Like The Weather, acts as a wonderful conclusion to the album as it recalls past friendships and how they change, hopefully for the better. It is a beautiful and gentle end to another strong album from this extremely talented multi-national band with members from Holland, the U.K and the USA. As with previous releases the artwork, graphics and production are exemplary and add greatly to the look of the album. For me this one is definitely another Winner.

Released 27th October, 2023.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Fish On Friday: 8mm, CD – Cherry Red Records