Music is at its best when it challenges you to think and to possibly to change your perception and understanding of things and situations. Well ‘The Confidence Trick’ (the new album from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate) may just help you in that respect. The album is partly conceptual in nature and, certainly, many of the songs share a common theme, often viewed from different angles.
The concept is that overconfidence can be viewed as a good trait and yet tends to lead to bad decision making, in that said ‘confidence’ is often mistaken for competence and this is where our problems often begin. Certainly this holds true in politics and can explain why people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have fared well politically. The fact that Trump is a sociopath and arrogantly self promoting didn’t really affect his inability to change the U.S. political system, it was his self confidence that swept away much of the barriers to the presidency.
This album reflects on these themes and uses intellect to make its points in a very admirable way. There is also the clever use of instrumental tracks that subtly support the themes of the album.
There are some fabulous passages in this album and the musicianship is very fine indeed with some fabulous emotive guitar lines and stirring synth passages and keyboard playing from Malcolm Galloway. There is also the excellent bass and Chapman stick playing of Mark Gatland and the hauntingly beautiful flute playing of Kathryn Thomas, whose classical training adds gravitas to the tracks on which she is a part.
A definite highlight is the excellent World War Terminus that explores how war unfolds and how these overconfident, yet mostly misguided, individuals believe they can win the chosen conflict when often they simply cannot or never could. Yet, such is their self belief (mostly misplaced), that they make rash decisions and unsustainable actions. All of this is contained through the excellent and challenging lyrics that abound on this album.
Another Plague was written prior to the recent lockdowns and refers to a government exercise in 2016. One in which we failed to learn, or even to make ready our preparations, for such a pandemic as happened in 2019 and which thousands of lives were lost because of incompetent government action or a complete lack of. The song is very direct and is uncompromising at laying blame at the government’s door. It’s a song that deserves to be widely heard but sadly won’t be, as folk only buy what they already know and what fits their requirements. It is almost criminal when music like this really warrants a far bigger platform and focus to be heard.
Folks like me can certainly help raise the profile but it’s getting the public at large to embrace change that is the difficult part. But those open minded individuals who embrace new music will find loads to enjoy and appreciate in this album, chock full as it is with excellent music and quality and intelligence. This really is a very rich seam in which to mine for nuggets of gold.
The album also has touches of modern classical and minimalism in it’s tracks best shown on Refuge, which is based on the family experience of Malcom’s Grandmother and her treatment at foreign hands. The track is instrumental but still conveys much, including a sense of joy and also wonder and gratitude for those that helped her to survive.
The title track is also very strong indeed and is a perfect summation of the albums themes and songs. All in all this album really impresses with some fabulously fluid guitar parts, majestic synths and solid musical backing throughout.
This is definitely a step further for the band and, impressive as ‘Nostalgia ForInfinity’ was, this one is both totally different and also even better. ‘The Confidence Trick’ has so many worthy tracks like Perky Pat, Lamprey Lava and All Empires Fall, all of which show the skill and flair the band have in the music they craft and create for our aural pleasure and long may such a fine creative streak continue.
Hats Off Gentlemen are a London based group/duo of Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland who are gaining increasing recognition for their unique take on progressive rock. They have released several albums since 2015, this new album ‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ is the latest to carry their ongoing theme of the fragility of civilisation.
In addition, many of the songs on the album are inspired by the work of Science Fiction author Alastair Reynolds. This adds an unexpected twist to these songs as they develop on the themes that he has explored in his writing.
The album is one that
requires active listening as you will need to immerse yourself into the music
to really understand what you hear and also to appreciate the level of maturity
and craft at play. This investment of time and effort will pay a handsome
dividend for the diligent listener. In
my opinion, this album has moments of sublime grace and beauty being endowed
with deep emotion.
The album starts with a longer piece Century Rain which has a running time of 9:17 and opens, as so many prog albums do, with keyboards. In this instance, there are some gentle synthesiser noodlings before the thunderous chords power in, it’s all very ethereal really and a good platform from which launches a sturdy vocal from Malcolm. This song is a good one, very atmospheric and with a fine use of Kathryn Thomas’ flute.
This track and the following, Twin Earth, take the story of Wendall Floyd, a musician living in Paris in an alternative 1950’s, who is hired to investigate the death of Susan White, a tenant who has an unusual record collection. Whilst doing this he meets Verity Auger who is from another Earth, 300 years in the future. Her world has been destroyed by weaponised technology called the Nanocause.
The theme of this piece is our ability to dehumanise whilst also failing to learn from the mistakes of history. Again, both are cerebral pieces that will cause you to think but the information in the booklet allows you to make sense of proceedings. The second part of this piece, Twin Earth, features, at the 4:17 mark, a piano solo of real beauty and warmth that shows the power of humanity in all its finery, a magnificent few moments within an interesting concept. The keyboard work throughout the album puts me in mind of Tony Banks, as the approach here is to build the keyboard sounds in a similar orchestrated manner.
The third track, Ark, is also significant, talking as it does about the original 1938 built aircraft carrier Ark Royal which played a vital part in the Second World War, including the famous search for the Bismarck, the flagship of the German Navy, which was sunk off the coast off France in 1941. The song has added poignancy as Malcolm’s grandfather was a Telegraphist Air Gunner for the Royal Air Force and served on Ark Royal for a time. The booklet includes memorabilia of that time and shows how basic and poorly supplied people were. This is an impressive and lengthy piece with some soaring guitar work from Malcolm throughout and acts as a fitting tribute to an important time in naval history.
The next track is called Nanobot and talks of a scientist who uses self replicating nanobots to counter a highly aggressive form of leukaemia which he is suffering from, however Darwinian aspects are at play, and the bots mutate into a mechanical cancer. This is another fine track, very imaginative and partly based on Malcolm’s own work as a medical specialist before he retired because of ill health.
There is much emotional input to this music in that it not only feeds the brain but its melodies are a tonic for the modern soul, rather a rarity these days I find.
Next we have Chasing Neon, a retro futuristic instrumental track which is full of atmosphere and allows your mind to conjure up its own images as the beat pulsates. This is a great track, very ambient and electronic with great synth parts to it and a fabulous driving beat that propels it along at pace and with style.
Track six to ten use another Alastair Reynold series as their inspiration. This time it’s the Revelation Space novels, in which the world has fractured into competing factions that are defined by their relationship with technology. The booklet explains all this in greater detail, but it is an interesting synopsis and makes for several memorable tracks here including Glitter Band which is a very strong and memorable song.
The album has a good mixture of tempos and differing degrees of intensity, but always remains on the listenable side, even in its harder moments. There are some excellent emotive musical passages here too that make this a very worthy listen and, even if Science Fiction isn’t your thing, there is enough fine music here to savour and enjoy.
I heartily recommend this album, the packaging is excellent throughout, elegant and enticing and the content does in no way disappoint either. This bodes very well for Hats Off Gentlemen to take a step further and benefit from their growing popularity. I think this album will really help cement their growing reputation and prove to be a resounding success.
A brooding, damaged cube, like something from The Borg of Star Trek fame, mysterious and enigmatic, a lone, shadowy figure walking towards it. I’ve long been a fan of great album art and the cover of the new album from UK Art/Prog rockers Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate is another one that really caught my eye.
Cryptic and original, like all the best album art, it really does invite you to wonder about the music behind it and knowing what this imaginative and inventive set of musicians are really capable of, I was very intrigued to find out more about ‘Broken But Still Standing’.
Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are Malcolm Galloway, on his own, or with his colleagues Kathryn Thomas (flute), Mark Gatland (bass), Rudy Burrell (drums) and Ibon Bilboa (guitar). They are based in London, UK.
Malcolm and Mark have been playing together since they were at school. Malcolm and Kathryn are married. This album also includes spoken word and backing vocals from their children James and Ethan Galloway, and James co-wrote two of the tracks.
Their music combines progressive rock, classic rock, acoustic, blues, metal, folk, funk, minimalism, and electronica and often explores scientific and philosophical themes.
‘Broken But Still Standing’,Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate’s third album, is a science/science-fiction themed concept album. It follows the story of human evolution, from LUCA, the last universal common ancestor of all current life on earth, via Lucy, one of the possible precursors of our species, to conflict and eventual symbiosis with artificial intelligences. The general theme of the album is that life has progressed by forming coalitions, whether between the primitive cells that engulfed each other to become the cell and the mitochondria (the power stations of the cell), between individuals to form communities, or between different forms of life in the future.
This band really know how to deliver a seriously complex and yet ultimately rewarding concept album, this is what I had to say about their previous release ‘When The Kill Code Fails’,
“I love it when new music lands on my desk with no fanfare or previous knowledge. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate may have a brilliant name but they also produce excellent music. Sometimes progressive, sometimes more rock orientated but, overall, it is an enthralling listen.”
So, without any further ado, let’s dive in…
(Photo by Jaz Dhillon)
The opening instrumental Vent is dark and almost elemental in its low brooding delivery with the haunting flute making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and an apprehensive feeling seep into your mind. There’s a seamless segue into the deeply atmospheric Almost Familiar with its vocals that drip with passion and longing, ethereal flute and the achingly bluesy low-down guitar. Unashamedly progressive in its outlook, it’s a slow-burning piece of musical storytelling for dark nights and open fires. Kathryn’s emotive flute solo is a piece of genius and closes out the track to perfection. There’s an alien, science fiction tone to the next two tracks, Luca to Lucy opens with an uneasy, unerringly off-kilter soundscape before the music seems to creep in like an ancient dawning of time, all measured, deliberate and low-key. An exact and infallible life force that has only one motive, to exist. Lucy sees Kathryn’s flute take centre stage on this short piece, all mysterious and enigmatic with its late night jazz feel, asking questions of the listener.
There’s nostalgia in spades about Last Man On The Moon, a wistful, almost melancholy song that gets under your skin with its elegant music and heartfelt vocals, especially the excellent harmonies between the male and female voices on the captivating chorus. Thoughtful and yet somehow forlorn, it’s a great track with a wonderfully plaintive and meandering guitar solo that leads you on a reflective musical journey. Advancing On Snailback is a trance-like ambient instrumental that gets inside your head and mesmerises you with each well considered note, Serious, discerning and meditative, it leaves you lost in thought. That reverie is broken by the edgy, almost punky guitar, drums and bass of Anywhere, Malcolm’s vocal has an angsty tone to it and the whole song seems to have discordant, uneasy feel. A short, sharp shock after the more refined and gentle feel of the first few tracks. There’s a jazz lounge aura to the opening of One Day When before the vocals begin and the energy builds to another catchy chorus, to me there’s a real vibrancy and energy that has infiltrated the music now, an addictive and harder note more akin to modern punk and alternative rock.
I love the intoxicating ambience of I Fell In Love With A Mechanical Dragon, rock infused electronica with high octane keyboards and a vibrant guitar note that combine with the urgent vocals to give one of the grin inducing highlights of the album. It does feel slightly absurd singing the chorus out loud in the middle of Morrison’s but that’s what great music does to you! The most overtly heavy track on the album, Let Me Out is dark and deliciously dangerous in its outlook. The in-your-face riffs and impassioned vocals drive the song on towards the dissonant flute solo and special mention must go to the superb drums and funky bass that are the engine room of this song. More electronica that almost verges on drum and bass underpins Under The Skin with its clever use of female spoken vocals that almost break into rap. A really inventive piece of music that makes me nod in appreciation every time I listen to it. That electronic vibe really comes to the fore on the retro grooves of Lucid Assassin. A high energy song with some rather excellent synthesisers that work on a hard working drum and bass foundation to give a special 80’s ‘laser show’ ambience.
Broken But Still Standing Till I Fall is another hard-edge, punk rock soaked track with a take no prisoners attitude. The vocals have attitude to them and the music just rocks, especially the dynamic and vivid guitar solo, another short sharp shock to the music system. The metaphorical lights are turned down low as we segue into the melodramatic All Alone Together, the heartfelt vocals give real poignance to the song and the music adds not a little tension to proceedings. Take some 70’s jazz funk, add some 90’s Happy Mondays Madchester vibe and you’ve got Host, one of the more upbeat songs on the album. The blues-rock imbued guitar solo is worth the price of entry on its own and the restless energy of the song soon finds itself manifested in your dancing feet. Transient Stars is an intelligent instrumental with a cinematic quality to it, you could imagine this as being part of the score for a high-brow, cerebral science fiction film. An enlightened piece of music that had me musing about all sorts of unfathomable things. Things come to a close with the astute progressive rock of Close My Eyes, dextrous musicians showcasing their skills and a contemplative vocal performance culminating in the simple but eminently memorable chorus. A cultured close to what has been an engrossing musical experience.
‘Broken But Still Standing’ is a brilliantly perceptive and original work of art that enthralls with every listen. Taken as a whole it is an utterly immersive musical experience that will captivate and enlighten the listener, Hats Off Gentlemen Its Adequate has to be one of the most creative and innovative artists out there today.
In a change from the norm, snappily named progressive rock act Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate have released a video with the first five songs from their new album ‘Broken But Still Standing’.
This part of the album is predominantly ambient and progressive rock. The tracks include Vent, Almost Familiar, Luca To Lucy, Advancing On Snailbackand Lucy.
Music written by – Malcolm Galloway, Mark Gatland, Kathryn Thomas. Lyrics by Malcolm Galloway and James Galloway. Performed by Malcolm Galloway, Mark Gatland, Kathryn Thomas. Produced, mixed, mastered and engineered by Malcolm Galloway and co-produced by Mark Gatland.
“The music industry is a strange combination of having real and intangible assets: pop bands are brand names in themselves, and at a given stage in their careers their name alone can practically guarantee hit records.” – Richard Branson
So, is ‘Old Beardy’ right? To a certain extent, yes he is. You have probably gone out and bought an album, without hearing any of it, just because you know the band and like them. Their name imbues some sort of guarantee of quality, that you are pretty certain to be listening to a really good album. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule (in my case, the execrable ‘Van Halen III’) but this will ring true most times across the board.
Now, how many times have you looked up a band on Youtube, spotify or the like just because you liked the name of an artist you had never heard before? and, to flip it on its head, how many times have you ignored one because you hated their chosen moniker? We can be fickle when it comes to things like this and, because of our dislike of a simple rubric, we can be missing out on some rather excellent music.
No such chance with Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, that is one brilliant band name and made me want to listen to their music immediately. Thankfully, I was not disappointed!
(Photo by Emre Basala)
Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, a proggy, rocky, funky, defiant and sometimes poignant band from London, UK, is led by Malcolm Galloway, either on his own, or with his colleagues Kathryn Thomas (flute), Mark Gatland (bass), Rudy Burrell (drums) and Ibon Bilboa (guitar). Malcolm is a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, and part-time neuropathologist and medical school lecturer.
Their songs so far have been about invisible disabilities, artificial intelligence, and stuff like that. Their first album, ‘Invisible’, was about Malcolm’s experience of invisible disability due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Malcolm is happy to be interviewed about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to try to raise awareness of the condition.
“’When the Kill Code Fails’ is a fascinating expression of the angst and wonder of an AI as it learns to live. It’s science fiction rock: sometimes moody, sometimes serene, with a positive message – no AIs taking over the world here. If you ever wondered what music an AI would listen to, this is it.” – Dr Peter Bentley, Fellow and Honorary Reader in Computer Science at UCL.
(Photo by Jazz Dhillon)
Opener and title track When The Kill Code Fails begins in a spaced out fashion with an electronica infused introduction before the vocals begin, all hesitant and low key. This song introduces the AI character, Vic, and how he offers to help defeat a virus that could cripple the whole world. It is edgy with crashy guitars and a funky rhythm section but it is Malcolm’s striking vocals that carry everything along in his role as storyteller. Fast paced, rushing headlong to a potential global disaster, it keeps you on your toes and begins the album in a very dramatic manner. Broken Wave is a stylish instrumental that represents the nascent aspects of our AI character floating in and out of focus. It is like a slumbering giant, the electronica inspired music washing through your consciousness. You can almost touch the tendrils of the recombined DNA that drifts through this musically created world, it is quite eerie and spooky. A sombre guitar and drums open up Layers, a hard rock driven track that deals with the awakening of certain iterations of the AI, specifically Vic, the first one to act as if he believes he is alive. The punkish vocals really give the song impetus and the impressive bass playing gives an ominous feeling, all in an Iggy Pop style. Throw in an uber cool guitar solo and it just drips intelligence and class as it flies along with reckless abandon.
Another instrumental, Connections sees Vic exploring and developing via the internet. Again, it is really sci-fi inspired and quite dramatic and, to be honest, creepy and wouldn’t have been amiss on the soundtrack to Bladerunner, bringing images of a dystopian future. It feels like an awareness that is waiting for something, brooding, not in any hurry as it knows it has Millennia ahead of it. Now onto an in your face and rock orientated track. Head In A Jar, is a metaphorical song about how Vic feels he was brought into the world and his unhappiness. A harsh, staccato riff and siren like keyboards open the track before the irascible, excited vocals begin. This is angst ridden and just drips with a snarly discord. You can really feel the bitterness that is flowing form our character, he’s not very chipper at all. Link is an electronic instrumental, the AI is exploring more of the virtual world. This track has a real 80’s synth feel to it, almost Kraftwerk like in effect with its retro-futuristic note.
Vic is getting fed up with being repeatedly confused about what he is and that feel runs throughout the dark feeling Going Down. A really low down and rumbling riff spurs the whole song on, Malcolm gives his voice a touch of disquiet and disharmony and the real stylish touch is the flute of Kathryn Thomas that adds a tangible sense of dangerous gaiety. I Still Remember You is the longest track on the album and is real brooding, slow burner of a song. Vic gets a bit angsty that the person he thought he’d been married to for many years is actually a false memory created from stock photography images. He can intellectually accept that, but not emotionally. The low key vocal delivery and subtly haunting rhythm create a real melancholy atmosphere which is only slightly lifted by the impressive chorus. There is a real depth of feeling to the song, an underlying hopelessness that grabs at you and won’t let go in a real addictive manner. The balladic aura is only emphasised by the deeply moving guitar solo that comes alive towards the end. The slow fade at the close gives emphasis to Vic’s artificial memory of a person dissolving. We move on to Vic’s acceptance of what he is on My Clockwork Heart and his belief in the substrate independence of consciousness. Jangly guitars and an insistent drum beat open the track before it runs off like a really good rock track. There are real similarities with fellow Brit proggers Traffic Experiment and an overall feel of a pared back singer/songwriter vibe running throughout the song. The rather excellent guitar solo, provided by Iban, adds a final coat of gloss to what is a short but sweet track.
Freerunning is a darkly compelling instrumental, Vic is running free and exploring his abilities. It gives me a feeling of being followed, chased even, by an unseen and unknown force and is quite chilling. Solace, Vic has become aware of the threat to both the virtual and non-virtual world posed by the virus. He decides to do what he can to fight the virus. This song is a reflection on mortality and the lazy, soul filled guitar is a knowing back drop to our protagonist giving up his virtual room, and moving into a more more authentic and dangerous (but still virtual) reality. The vocals drip with a heartfelt emotion and this quite beautiful song leaves you just about drained. Powerfully stirring, it really does move you in many ways. GlassLithium, the final instrumental, Vic has had his virtual chains unlocked, and is out in the wider internet, dividing himself to attack the virus. He subdues the virus, although it can’t be completely destroyed everywhere and takes on the role of a protector, diffusely distributed across networks, watching out for a resurgent virus. This track could have been taken straight off the soundtrack to The Matrix and reminds me of Rob Dougan, sleek, smart and stylish. The undulating keyboards and swirls of sound emanating from the synths light up the way in your own imagination, beguling and mesmerising.
This inventive and intriguing musical release comes to a close with Alive, Vic has saved the real world from the effects of the virtual world being virus-ridden (hooray) and has come to terms with his identity. He is confident that he is both alive, and passionate about experiencing life. A jazzy and retro feeling song with a funky guitar riff and cheerful vocals it really does bring things full circle. The uplifting, fast-paced chorus takes you on an animated jaunt and the tight guitar work on the solo is a joy to behold. There are touches of early Who amid the classically elegant guitar work and it leaves you on quite a high as this charming record comes to a close.
I love it when new music lands on my desk with no fanfare or previous knowledge. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate may have a brilliant name but they also produce excellent music. Sometimes progressive, sometimes more rock orientated but, overall, it is an enthralling listen.
Read the story behind Vic and The Kill Code at this link and it will add even more layers of enjoyment to your listening pleasure: