Spock's Beard

The Light

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The Light is the debut album from Spock's Beard, the Culver City, CA neo-prog rock band whose sprawling exercises in technical proficiency and suite-like compositions made them an underground legend almost immediately. One has to understand that The Light is nothing at all akin to anything being done in the mid-'90s. Yes hadn't yet made their full comeback, and the memories of Genesis with Peter Gabriel faded ever more pervasively form view with each subsequent Phil Collins solo release. Here are four sprawling, knotty, syncopated tunes, two of them, the title track and "The Water," are multiple-part suites that encompass no less than 48 minutes of the album's 67 minutes. In addition, this album was self-financed. (What "responsible" multi-national recording conglomerate during Nirvana-mania would give them a record deal after all?). There are wonderfully referenced elements here in these massive and yes, overblown constructions -- but that's what prog's delight is -- it's overblown and confoundingly complex. There's the great King Crimson "21st Century Schizoid Man" reference in "One Man," and the flamenco-cum-near-gothic metal of the "Return of the Catfish Man," near the end of The Light. The layered keyboards and backing chorus in "Go the Way You Go" reminds one of Yes at their knottiest, before slipping expertly into an altered universe dynamically and becoming a poetic and romantic elegy. And "The Water"'s labyrinthine, apocalyptic, maze-like compositional journey that may not sound like punk, but certainly reflects many of its sentiments, is an anomaly in any kind of music that espouses this M.O. The dodgy (but not substandard) recording makes it sound like classic- '70s vintage, and the music is out of time and space. Fans of this genre have long regarded it as a classic.

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