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.
‘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.
Released 7th October 2017