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Thinking Plague - Decline and Fall
"Thinking Plague lays down some of the most rhythmically complex, texturally inventive, and melodically challenging popular music of the last 30 years, and somehow makes it all sound easy and natural." –
All Music Guide
Decline and Fall
is the long awaited sixth album from a group who personifies the term 'beloved underground favorites'. From the group's beginnings as a duo doing basement recording experiments nearly 30 years ago until now,
has always had a strong vision of their unique take on progressive rock music. Despite the very long lifespan of the band and the many years between records, the basic sound of the group and instrumentation was set early and the years since have seen interesting variations on their sound, from the stripped down approach of the earliest work to the deep layering of electronic sounds and samples of their last album.
Decline and Fall strips back a lot of the 'studio-isms' and more than ever, sounds like the work of a really powerful band. The album adds a few other new surprises, most notably the addition of wonderful vocalist
Elaine Di Falco
who fits right into what may be the band's most demanding job. She sings with great poise and control the band's hallmark melodic lines - passages that would trip up a lesser vocalist. Also new is keyboardist/drummer
who plays with tremendous authority on both instruments (although just before finishing up the album, the group added drummer
who appears on one track). Returning are long-term members
on saxes and clarinets,
on bass and
, the band's guitarist, leader and composer.
A new album by
is always an event; working slowly and unwaveringly, the group has released a handful of brilliant, art-rock classics.
Decline and Fall
is the latest of them.
You can hear a track from the album here
Definitely their Plague-iest album yet - from beginning to end, it's truer to genius-leader Mike Johnson's fantastic singular musical vision than ever, with absolutely no letting-up or compromise. And the band is incredible. Most notably, new vocalist Elaine DiFalco can channel either Suzanne Lewis or Deborah Perry at will. Does that make this their best album? Not sure yet. I feel guilty for nitpicking, but I do miss the contrasts of musical personality in previous albums - Perry's "Enya from Hell", Lewis' punkish rebellion or Bob Drake's dark humor. I hope the musical contrasts among the current band members can emerge on the next album, although Mike Johnson should retain the ultimate control and veto power which comes with musical genius. But even Beethoven and Bach weren't able to control their performers forever.
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