Live fast and die young: itís a rock clichť that you wonít hear much anymore since the first generation of rock artists has now reached the age of retirement. British based The Legendary Pink Dots havenít reached that age yet, but in 2010 they celebrate their 30th anniversary. A respectable period of time, but theyíre not the first and by far not the only ones. The latest album Seconds Late For The Brighton Line is their 58th (!) release. Adding the solo albums and side projects such as The Tear Garden and Mimir, the number of releases even goes beyond hundred. So since 1983 there hasnít been a year without several releases or without being on the road to play live.
However, the 30th anniversary wasnít a happy celebration. In December 2009 Martijn de Kleer and Niels van Hoorn decided to leave the band. De Kleer played guitar and bass and joined the band first in 1991. He was a band member between 1991 and 1996, between 1998 and 2003 and from 2005 until 2009. Van Hoorn played the wind instruments from 1989 until 2009; he was a band member for more than twenty years. So it was a significant loss, but Edward Ka-Spel (vocals, keyboards), Phil Knight, also known as The Silverman (keyboards, electronics) and Raymond Steeg (sound engineer) decided to carry on and saw the return of Erik Drost (guitar, bass) who also replaced Martijn de Kleer around 2003/2004.
Loosing two long time members also means a change of sound. The wind instruments played by Niels van Hoorn and before that the violin, have always been a significant part of the sound of the Legendary Pink Dots. For the first time since 1983 the band has a more or less conventional line-up with synthesizers, guitar and bass. In addition, Erik Drostís style of playing differs completely from Martijn de Kleerís style. The latter is a technical and modest guitar player, while Erik Drost is emotional, extravert and impulsive. Therefore 2010 has been a difficult year for the band and this reflects the new album.
Russian Roulette is the catchy opener of the album. Endless Time, Leap Of Faith and Radiation Day are very melancholic songs. At first listening theyíre not really outstanding: based on a simple bass line or a looped sample, but after a few spins they slowly unveil and appear to be much more complex and ingenious. God And Machines is a sinister ambient piece. No Star Too Far starts simple, but builds up like a mantra. These six songs fit very well together with a flow and a similar atmosphere. This flow stops with Someday; itís a bit too sentimental for my taste and sort of an anti-climax where the No Star Too Far builds up. Hauptbahnhof 20:10, lasting just over six minutes, is a remake of a song that appeared on one of their first cassettes back in 1981 and reappeared on the Legendary Pink Box in 1989. Especially the lyrics are a bit outdated. It lacks the humor and the more observing style of writing which Ka-Spel developed over the years. The album is closed by the 13-minute long piece Ascension. This is a mind-blowing instrumental piece of krautrock that reminds me of the early days of Klaus Schulze and Popol Vuh.
Seconds Late For The Brighton Line is not an easy album. It needs listening a few times also for the long time fan like me. It needs to be played loud, with earphones or on a good sound system. You canít really listen to it in a car or while doing the dishes; you really need to sit down in front of the speakers. Only then the tracks start to unveil some of their beauty and mystery. The sound is very rich, deep and inventive. They used a lot of old analogue gear together with their new gear. The songs are almost like aural paintings; a very creative way of using electronics in which Erik Drostís guitar fits very well. Being forced by the circumstances The Legendary Pink Dots reinvented themselves and released their best album of the past decade. The album is also available as a double-LP with bonus tracks on side four.
***** Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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