Thieves' Kitchen


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One could hardly hope for a better first album. Really. The English progressive rock quintet Thieves' Kitchen released its first-born, Head, in early 2000. This group is the proud sibling of the British progressive rock tradition. One can hear the melodies, counterpoint, and arrangement richness of Yes and Gentle Giant elevated on solid hard rock foundations reminiscent of Grey Lady Down (no surprise, drummer Mark Robotham was a key member of that group) and early Emerson, Lake & Palmer (remember "The Barbarian"?). An American touch à la Kansas in the vocal harmonies completes the picture. Every one of those five musicians is a virtuoso, but singer Simon Boys is the most striking one, his powerful voice evoking Ozzy Osborne. It perfectly fits Phil Mercy's heavy guitar sound. Head is a collection of five tracks ranging from seven to 19 minutes. The opener, "Mute," hits where it counts: a mini-Moog theme doubled by the guitar over a rock-hard syncopated rhythm section. After the first minute, it has already become clear that, even though this is a first album, this band features mature and experienced musicians. It makes you wonder why they self-released this CD (wasn't there a record label willing to sign them?) "Time" passes by without being noticed, but "The Return of the Ultragravy" is full of twisted metric surprises. The album ends with the epic track "T.A.N.U.S.," built around a simple riff and many variations -- simple but brilliantly executed. It is on this track that the musicians unleash all their energy. The whole thing is perfectly produced and packaged with beautiful artwork. Who said the age of D.I.Y. only stemmed third grade homemade records by rejected aspiring rock stars? Head was one of the best prog-rock albums of 2000; the quality of the writing and the delivery making up for the lack of originality.

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