This is the fourth album from 3RDegree and the first one that I have had the opportunity to listen to and review. I found it an album of contradictions and one that seemed to be unsure of what genre it really wanted to belong to. In part it is pop, some progressive rock and a bit of jazz/fusion. As a result, the album comes across as something experimental as if 3RDegree are unsure of the musical direction in which they want to go.
The lyrics on You're Fooling Yourselves, The Socio-Economic Petri Dish, Incoherent Ramblings, The Ones To Follow and Televised are unashamedly social commentary and put me very much in mind of The Smiths, Bruce Springsteen and even 10CC in places. This is not a bad thing. Too many lyrics today are just wibble, designed to provide the vocalist with an opportunity to do more than stand at the front of the stage doing nothing.
Sadly, the power of lyrics from these five tracks is not matched by the rest of the lyrics on this album which further adds to the feel of this being an experimental album.
The opening track, You're Fooling Yourselves starts off very '80s pop rock. About halfway through it decides to be a bit more progressive than pop but that doesn't detract from it being a good opening track. Sadly, the length of the track at 6:53 might make it just a little too long for radio stations which is a shame. It's quite a catchy little number, the lyrics are punchy and quite relevant in a US election year. The opening track can really sell an album to the listener and this had me right away.
There are no overlong solos on this album which means that all the tracks are of a reasonable length. That said, Exit Strategy, the second track tries desperately to be progressive fusion but struggles to keep it together. As a result it just went on far too long for me. Trimmed down to a three or even four minute track and tightened up, would have made this a much better track. In its current form it is probably the worst track on the album.
The Socio-Economic Petri Dish has a distinct off-beat jazz feel about it and it works both musically and lyrically. The track is split into two parts, Prelude to a Bailout (instrumental) and Give Them What They Want (the main part). The lyrics take a big bite out of the current economic crisis and its causes in the US and will resonate with a lot of people.
Incoherent Ramblings is a great follow up to Socio-Economic Petri Dish and I get the feeling that these were written to be played together. The music is a little off beat but it has a distinct pop feel about it in places reminding me of 10CC in their heyday. The lyrics would not go amiss on a Bruce Springsteen album and are also pretty hard hitting in places. It is the longest track on the album, just, but unlike Exit Strategy, it engages you all the way through.
The Ones To Follow has definite radio play potential. It is a catchy piece of pop music and as fun as it is, I found myself wondering whether it would make an A-side or a B-side. I've listened to this track several times and still can't make my mind up.
The pace then slows down for A Work Of Art. This has a nice saxophone piece on it but overall it really didn't work for me. Perhaps it was George Dobbs voice or it might have been the lyrics , either way, this track didn't do it for me at all. The best I can say is that it is almost the sort of thing you'd hear midweek in a small nightclub or hotel bar.
Televised, is quite a different track. You turn the audio up to catch the first part of the track - The Green Room - but that's the hook. Just as you turn the volume up, the second part of the track, Showtime, kicks in and it goes from quiet instrumental to strong progressive rock. The lyrics appear to have been influenced by the docu soaps, Dr Phil and other assorted staples of US TV.
That leads you into The Millions Of Last Moments which is the only purely instrumental track on the album. This hangs together well and at just over 2 minutes it was hard to know if this was just a spare track the band had left over and were using as filler or whether it was really planned. Either way, it could easily have been longer without losing its feel and it is a shame that too many new progressive bands are scared of doing instrumental tracks in case they are tagged as being stuck in the past.
There is not a lot to say about Memetic Pandemic. It is a pretty average progressive/pop rock track of the sort that most bands use to pad out albums. It did absolutely nothing for me and at over 7 minutes in length, I would have preferred 3RDegree to have spent the time working on The Millions Of Last Moments to turn that into a much longer instrumental.
The album finished with A Nihilist's Love Song. Most albums have a final track that acts as an anthem for the album and I can see A Nihilist's Love Song filling that role at 3RDegree concerts. The chorus is nice and catchy and this is a track that should get good radio play. Releasing a double a-side single with A Nihilist's Love Song and The Ones To Follow should be an easy decision for 3RDegree.
Despite the experimental feel of the album and its confused musical direction, this is not a bad album at all. The musicianship is good while the mixing and dynamic range are well balanced. The big question is, would I buy it? Honestly, I don't really know. I've purchased worse albums and grown to like them over time. I've listened to this album almost a dozen times so far and while there are tracks I really like, the album just doesn't hang tight for me.
*** Ian Murphy
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