Great Music Stories – Guy Bellamy
Erosion Factory Radio Show With Jimmy Jones 2-22-17
Prog Rock Files 09/03/17 With Garry Foster
Surrey Hills Radio, 21st Century Prog Show 20/02/17 With Tom Gillett
Prog Core Live Radio Show 25/01/17
Prog Core Live Radio Show 07/01/17
New Ears Prog Show 64 08/04/17
The Progressive Aspect With Phil Chelmsford 25/06/17
We’re All In This Together
Urgency greets the listener with IT’s new album “We Are All in this Together”, a sense of current desperation that is infused into the brash tracks, taking neo-prog to a much raunchier level than one might expect. Led by multi- instrumentalist, producer and vocalist Nick Jackson, this talented crew also includes co-producer Andy Rowberry on guitars and keys, a tight rhythm section of bassist James Hawkins and drummer Will Chism, as well as keyboardist and sax player Ryan McCaffrey. Toss in a slew of guests including the venerable Rupert Greenall of The Fixx fame and you get a tight album that has tremendous melodic warmth as well as loads of anger, frustration and genuine rage. The tracks are nevertheless smoothly thought out, packing a wide expanse in terms of musicality, but with a strong penchant for boundless vocal work from Nick as well as some tremendous choir and backing vocals. IT is definitely part of the modern version of new prog, contemporary themes wrapped in a tighter bundle, somewhat akin to bands line Deeexpus, Cairo, Touchstone, Final Conflict, Comedy of Errors, Drifting Sun etc?
The aptly titled Power” blasts ahead with a snivelling bass onslaught, garnished with sensationalist voice effects and a rough beat. Nick molests the microphone, spewing venom-drenched lyrics that illustrate the state of the world we live in. Tyrant rants, fake news, lies that lie beneath the veneer of self-loving truths, snarling tirades and jagged edged music are the details that make this progressive hurricane so appealing. Crunchy riffs that recall Porcupine Tree and Kyros, dabbed with slick synthesizer cascades that verge on techno (much like recent Galahad), the table certainly seems set for quite the prog ride.
Financial torpor is dealt with on “Born in Debt”, a complex maze of increasing liability and tumbling quality of life that seems to be the norm, as the rich get wealthier and the masses get apathetic. Like a pleading sermon, the sequencer- laden piece segues rather brilliantly into the mesmerizing “the Working Man”, a definite album highlight, a modern prog classic that owns all the marbles, with a magnificent chorus, whispering yet angry vocals and a slick arrangement that may conjure memories of Arena or Ayreon, in terms of melodic structure. This is what intelligent prog sounds like, a clever nugget that has appeal, worth and wealth, accessible yet brainy. And very contemporary! The wailing female voice (I am a total sucker for that!) is a massive highlight that transcends time and space.
Another timeless and whopping melody greets the listener on the equally appealing “Last Chance”, a rather doomsday- like ballad that has meaning as well as proverbial bite. “Got nothing to lose, it goes on and on and on”. The sheer quality of the piece says a lot about the continuing elevation of the neo/symph genre, as writing compelling music is not an easy a task, and adorning it with breathtaking pomp and ceremony simply takes this to a higher plane. “Together forever”, Nick sneers!
Another bass-driven track is the punky “Gamble the Dream”, a venom spewing affair that has an almost Stranglers?like drive, Nick belting out his rage with little respite or complacent modesty. Nasty, greasy and torrential. The Nine Inch Nails influence is front and center, adding some well-grounded angst to the proceedings, Nick even daring to growl. Short and hard. Love IT.
Throwing in some classic psychedelia on “Voices” gives this slower piece a strong Beatles-like feel, where dreamy, echo- laden pleading on the microphone elevates the track to a modern day rant against government and political confusion (Blair/Bush project), using a George Galloway speech to great effect (I do not agree with his self-serving pseudo-politics, which I find politically typical of hypocritical slicing dicing and outright lying). Music is great though!
How about a nice 11 minute epic to further the cause? “The Path of Least Resistance” stretches out their inspiration, incorporating a fine Floydian atmosphere of clanging and shimmering guitars, whispering voice and current affair commentaries. This is definitely the centerpiece monument, a towering arrangement that sets the scene and then glowingly wraps humongous melodies over the top, exhilarating in both depth and accessibility. Multi-faceted and constantly evolving, one musical step leads to another on the road to a clear destination, the brazen riffs come clambering out of the urban ghetto and Nick’s heavily effected voice provides some much needed snarl and bite. A stupendous prog anthem that deserves a wide audience, rapturous applause and pumped fists!
If there would be a ‘hit single’ here, it would be “House”, a finely chiseled jewel of a prog pop song, very near something The Fixx would create, with slashing West-Oram styled guitars and a Cy Curnin-like vocal performance that will astound the cognoscenti. I band I still adore, The Fixx often rode the fine line between ‘alternative’ and prog, to great studio effect and stunning live performance. You wear your influences well, I guess. The endlessly repeated title highlights the slick Rowberry guitar work, both rhythm flicks and lead licks. Crucify me! Wow! Rabid and quite pissed off, “Down the Hatch” infuses a vocally violent counteraction to the apathy that permeates the world, lyrics grabbing the jugular, forcing it ‘down, down, down, down,”! Crisp, crunch, cringe and crave. Brutal. Dark. Defiant.
As an amateur historian, “Revolution” means a lot to me, having been victimized by one as a new-born, so I embarked on analyzing the concept throughout the ages. Dejectedly, some have succeeded only in regressing, instead of supplying the deliverance promised. It’s a bold concept, mothered by societal frustration at being led by countless idiotic profiteers and hypocrites. Sadly, there is no such thing as a great leader, there is no such thing as a good human. The music offers pain, despair and anger. IT also shows understanding and the yearning for a better future. It’s a revolution, an evolution in a primitive world.
Tremendous musical journey, full of sizzle and explosion. We are all in this together, indeed.
Who said that Neo-Prog could not be a used to make a deep reflection of nowadays problems?
With this album It have managed not only to create an excellent prog-rock album, they also speak about the complex political situation that we are experimenting the last years. Maybe they are being a bit too ambitious (or ingenious) if they are waiting for a real people’s revolution. But it’s a wonderful concept for an album anyway.
To develop this concept, they use a pristine and crystal clear production. It’s obvious that they spent a lot of time not only composing the songs, but also in recording them to achieve the best possible sound. And I have the say that the album sounds fantastic, detailed and deep. Sometimes even a bit over-produced! But I’m OK with that.
Power starts the album wonderfully, with a powerful bass and a obscure and dramatic vocal interpretation. The guitars sounds great and there is a constant layer of keyboards (even mellotron), which deeply reminds me to Arena, specially the Rob Sowden’s albums.
Born Into Debt contains a rather negative lyrics and it’s a fine slow tempo song with good melodies. But it’s a bit anodyne anyway and also very Arena resembling. And even more Arena is The Working Man, specially in the chorus and the guitar sound. They try to hide it with different effects, but the result is that the track sounds over-produced.
Last Chance has fine acoustic verses and a chorus where we can hear a slide guitar and mellotron. The solo brings automatically John Mitchell to mind… Again. But it’s a correct song anyway. But surprisingly, the album gets better with Gamble the Dream, maybe the hardest moment of the album, great riffs and another good chorus. A very funny and fast song!
But wait, Voices is even better! The song starts with synthesised vocals and good keyboards, and here we can really hear the true character of the band. The Arena and IQ influences are not so obvious this time and after the third minute the band was able to compose a wonderful section which remembers me to the best musicals, containing wonderful choirs and melodies.
And The Path of Least Resistance is another hit of this album. With the Arena influenced surprisingly turned down, the beginning of the song follows the good path and style of Voices, but after that the tracks derives in darker vocal melodies and good instrumental passages till the moment 7’20”, when a great riff in the vein of Porcupine Tree starts till the end of the most progressive song of the album. And maybe the best!
House shows the influence of Steve Hogarth’s Marillion, with strong bass playing and another catchy chorus. Modern Neo-Prog at its finest! Down the Hatch remembers me to Pink Floyd in the first seconds of the song, but soon a original dark melody appears with almost robotic vocals. After a mysterious instrumental interlude we can hear another great riff with strong bass and rough vocals. And at this moments it’s obvious that despite their influences, this band has it’s own personality.
Revolution starts with a bass which remembers me to Dream Theater. And that’s not an accident, because the song has a riff in the verses that it’s almost progressive metal. The chorus and instrumental interlude are more conventional, but they bring the album to and end in a rather appropriate way.
Conclusion: We’re All in this Together is not the typical Neo-Prog album. Despite the strong Arena, IQ and Marillion influences the band is able to achieve its own personality, especially in the second half of the album. The result is a very funny, surprising album with a fine dark tone and strong musicianship, highlighting the good Jackson’s vocals, great guitar riffs and strong bass.
In addition, the lyrics of the album are a rare gem, talking about social matter in a rather realistic and cool way. Just excellent!
Best Tracks: Power, Gamble the Dream, Voices, The Path of Least Resistance, Revolution.
My Rating: ****
This is the fifth album by IT and judging by this album I have some catching up to do. IT is the mastermind of Nick Jackson and Andy Rowberry, with the band completed by James Hawkins (bass), Will Chism (drums), and Ryan McCaffrey (keyboards/saxophone).
A timely album looking at austerity, the current economic climate and it could almost be a companion soundtrack to the film ‘I Am Daniel Blake’. IT successfully mix a memorable melodic with a hard hitting lyric – ‘Voices’ features former MP George Galloway stating how he will not stop until Tony Blair is behind bars. The music is suitably heavy and features a sublime piece of guitar.
Porcupine Tree and Steve Thorne came to mind on ‘Born Into Debt’ and the album’s epic piece, ‘The Path of Least Resistance’. The latter features another powerful guitar solo and the song allows the band to flex their musical muscles.
‘Revolution’ was released as a YouTube video last year and is the album’s most instant song with a big, crashing chorus led by some seriously heavy guitar and it just won’t leave your head – impressive stuff. The Theremin and keys/guitar combine superbly towards the end of the song. ’Power’ is another that demands the listener’s attention, where the music matches the song’s title, again leaving you marvel at the band’s ideas and music.
An album of the here and now, that shows how music can and does have a role to play in modern life and politics. Essential listening and even if you are not one for the political side of things, the melodies created by IT are worthy of your time and attention.
The label Progressive Gears released in March the album “We’re All In This Together” from the British band called IT. For me it is the introduction to the band but it seems that this is already their fifth album. IT formed in 1994 released in that same year their debut full length album “The Stranger Inside The Self” which was followed up the next year with “Two Worlds”. At that time the band also started with the inclusion of short films playing behind the group on stage. In the year 2002 their third album “Over & Out” was released. The fourth album “Departure” was released in July 2009 with an accompanying bonus DVD giving an indication of the powerful on stage visuals. After a kind of hiatus whilst the band formulated new ideas, the band is now back with the conceptually based album “We’re All In This Together”.
Nick Jackson – vocals, guitar; Andy Rowberry – guitars, backing vocals; James Hawkins – bass; Will Chism – drums; Ryan McCaffrey – keyboards, saxophone
You can find 10 tracks on “We’re All In This Together” which explores themes of austerity, inequality and an uncertain future for younger generations.
The album opens with the track “Power”. A rock oriented track with some nice and brooding vocal parts. Especially the vocal parts in the last part are interesting. This is followed by the short and intriguing piece “Born Into Debt”. Slowly the band is catching my attention. This flows into the mellow track “The Working Man” which has very nice vocal melodies and a lovely electric guitar part. The vocal parts on this album are very strong. The next track “Last Chance” is showing this also. Again you can enjoy lovely vocal harmonies and some nice melodic guitar parts. All this supported by tasteful keyboard orchestrations.
“Gamble The Dream” is more powerful and rock oriented with aggressive guitar licks and powerful drumming. To be honest those more rock oriented pieces are not my personal favorites. With “Voices” the band grabbed my attention again. The band uses several narrative vocal samples on this album. The longest (11:49) and most interesting track of this fine album is entitled “The Path Of Least Resistance”. Cathy vocal refrains take turns with interesting instrumental parts. It is a diverse piece of music with some wonderful moments. At some point I hear some Porcupine Tree influences. My highlight of the album seamlessly flows into the next song “House”. This piece has some wonderful melodies and nice vocal refrains. But the later counts for the whole album. Very nice track!
The album closes with the two tracks “Down The Hatch” and “Revolution”. The opening of “Down The Hatch” is full of interesting samples. The piece has a somewhat threatening atmosphere. With “Revolution” the album comes to an end. The piece has a brooding bass line and the keyboard or Theremin part is very nice.
On “We’re All In This Together” the band uses a lot of samples, narrative vocals and spoken voice-overs to support the concept of the album. This works very well. The concept closely matches the threatening atmosphere of today’s society. The vocal parts are very strong on this album. An album that needs several spins in your player before it reveals its quality. The band has an own sound, but if you like to hear some references, sometimes the atmosphere of the music reminds me of Floyd/Roger Waters and Porcupine Tree. In my opinion it is a good and fine prog album with great vocal parts but I am not blown away by it. This album has gotten some exceptional reviews, so I would say … check this out for yourself!
This is album number five for the band IT, whose name is pronounced like the word “it”. We’re All In This Together is as their promo material says: 9 powerful songs exploring everything from the state of the NHS (National Health Service) to the despair of those at the bottom of the ladder, although the sentiments expressed are equally applicable in a global context. As such the band’s left leaning comes out loud and clear in the lyrics, but that aside this is a very satisfying album. These guys started out as a psychedelic, multi-media group and after four albums it’s easy to see how they’ve moved effortlessly into the Progressive Rock genre. The music on display here has a lot in common with bands such as Citizen Cain, Semistereo, Porcupine Tree and even a bit of today’s Marillion or Pendragon. It’s a very modern prog with a decided edge, almost Alternative-Prog but more if you add a few symphonic touches here and there. Most of these songs are in the five to six minute range but IT is able to put a lot of musicianship into those few minutes. Now I call them songs because for the most part they are songs created in the traditional mainstream sense, but then they are embellished with dramatic introductions, contrasting middle-bits and grand endings. In amongst all that there are some great layered arrangements with crafty instrumental change-ups that all go to make the music not only interesting, but I would say a step above so much contemporary music that’s out in the mainstream. They’re not overly complex songs but truth is they’re far from simple. I guess that’s why this sounds so much like Progressive Rock to me. As I’ve said it’s not a difficult leap to go from Psychedelic to Prog. Oh, and did I mention these guys can incorporate some beautiful melodies? Well they do, all of which makes this album highly recommendable. There is a lot to like here.
Anybody with a cursory familiarity with rock history knows a society in turmoil often foments some our most powerful music. It’s a necessity, really, and it’s not exclusive to rock and roll, or even to music. Some eras are so well-defined and documented by artistic expression that focuses on social and political commentary that the art becomes an immutable part of the period’s cultural fabric. In the realm of rock and roll, we need only look at the Vietnam War era as one example of a sweeping wave of politically charged music inspired by the events of a particular time. Listening to “Fortunate Son” or “Run Through the Jungle” is the closest thing we’ll ever get to time travel.
It seems like we’re about ready for another such wave, and it’s easy to understand why. As the world roils and rifts around us, this chaos will be frequently reflected in the art being created. Not all art, of course. Those who work in stories or fantasies or escapism intended and experienced as a refuge are just as vital.
Not so for the hard-edged London-based progressive rockers IT on their new album We’re All in this Together. The band’s gritty portrayal of life circa 2017 is a harrowing vision of the strains that many of us face trying to negotiate the often cruel snares of a contemporary society increasingly ruled by and for the elite. IT’s savage fusion of blazing guitar riffs that slash through a futuristic soundscape of synths and electronics battered by Will Chism’s tight-as-nails drumwork is viscerally compelling and authentic. Vocalist Nick Jackson delivers the sharply pointed lyrics with a fiery intensity that suits the music, completing a picture that is dark, but not without hope.
The songs are primarily written by Jackson and Andy Rowberry, although Chism and bassist James Hawkins also contribute. The album follows a concept of sorts, the battle against the establishment and whether the present state of the world is sufficient to bring people in massive numbers to fight for change—a revolution. The ending is ambiguous. The first single and closing track, “Revolution”, concludes with a query: “It’s a revolution / a seed, a solution / it’s like evolution / it’s forever, it’s forever / it’s a revolution?” We’ll see.
“Power” propels the collection with a frenetic jolt of searing guitar, a rock-solid rhythm and an impassioned vocal. The song is a caustic indictment of governments which are, in effect, corrupt oligarchies controlled by cash and corporations. The last section presents an impressive vocal arrangement and restless waves of synths that fuse with the guitars to ratchet the tension tighter and tighter until the final second.
After the torrid hard-rock opener, IT slows down the pace with a slow-burning drama that echoes Pink Floyd sonically and in Jackson’s richly sonorous voice reminiscent of later-era David Gilmour. “Born into Debt” is a taut and ominous piece quivering with the specter of impending violence. Jackson inhabits the point of view of a man so broken and desperate by lack of opportunity and bitter hopelessness that he’s on a knife’s edge of turning to crime. Jackson’s lyrics are suggestive, offering inner thoughts that don’t spell out anything explicit but the listener can feel the simmering frustration likely to boil over at any moment. “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose,” a legendary artist once wrote.
“Working Man” has an vast, wide-open feel to it. A mid-tempo rocker built on a foundation of acoustic guitar and piano until the electric kicks in on the third verse, “Working Man” reflects on the endless consumption that absorbs so much of our time, energy, money and overall existence, and those who toil to produce all of these things we are conditioned to covet. “Gamble the Dream” is another powerhouse rocker with an ambitious vocal arrangement and molten torrents of guitar. It tells of feeling cheated, of realizing that all the idealistic dreams we are sold and the expectations to which we are expected to conform are often the hollowest of promises.
“Voices” is an eerie and poignant reminder of the flesh-and-flood humans—brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters—sacrificed by the masters of war, profiteers and political opportunists who leave cities leveled, battlefields soaked in blood, cemeteries filled and empty holes of grief in the hearts of loved ones left behind. The album’s centerpiece is the 12-minute behemoth “The Path of Least Resistance,” an elaborate piece that perhaps best demonstrates the meticulous attention to detail IT lavishes on their music. The sound effects, the vocal reverb, the unpredictable and cleverly crafted musical arrangement… it’s headphone music of the highest caliber.
A late highlight is “House,” with its soaring chorus and a wicked groove during the verses. It’s one of the more melodic tracks on the album, and would be a perfect choice as a potential single. “Down the Hatch” is a defiant inventory of the toll austerity takes on the ordinary citizen. It’s no shock that in the late ‘70s, during a comparable period of malaise and austerity in England, the punk movement arose. What movement will emerge from the stranger-than-fiction existence in which we now find ourselves? Defiance? Resistance? Or are we too anesthetized to rise up and act? IT lays out the challenge boldly and with genuine fervor.
We’re All in this Together is a focused and authentic expression of the resentments and toils of many told through razor-sharp lyrics and blistering hard-rock that will blow the casings off your speakers if you play it loudly enough. The production and mixing by Jackson and his colleagues is outstanding. The album has a crisp, cutting vibe, a remarkable sonic clarity. The arrangements are elaborate and complex—a lot of things are happening, and in the wrong hands it might have been overblown, but IT nails it.
Someone looking back a few decades from now seeking to make sense of our world could do far worse than absorbing this strident collection that is dynamic not only in lyrical content but in its tightly-wound musical ferocity. It’s angry, yeah, but We’re All in this Together isn’t just a recitation of outrages and grievances. The album doesn’t just raise the specter of the troubles we all understand so well, it provides a very clear solution. It’s in the album’s title, it’s woven through all of the songs, it’s in the final question posed by “Revolution,” and Jackson sings it explicitly in “Last Chance”: “Together, together / only we can change this fate.” It’s a solution we’ve heard so many times before.
Power to the People. People Have the Power. Stand! Lift Every Voice and Sing. We Shall Overcome. The Rising. Get Together. We’re All in this Together. Endless others, famous and forgotten, by superstars and unknown bands playing their hearts out in small clubs or garages, rising out of the endless anxiety, anger, and frustration of their daily lives. All are calls to action and awakening. And of course, as we know, it is true, after all. We do have the power. If only we had the will to wield it.
Welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads! This week we’re venturing into the “far back” corners of the Concert Closet as the search for all things prog burrows into the rich soil that is the prog garden. With all the crazy stuff happening on this rock we call home, the music coming from the prog garden has begun to take on an ominous tone. The Mute Gods recent release is but one example of progressive rock hitting you over the head in an effort to pull you from your slumber.
Now another prog band steps up to the podium with a sound that is all at once foreboding, foretelling, relevant, and urgent. Like Nikita Khrushchev banging a shoe on his desk at the UN, so does IT bang the ground in the prog garden with their latest release, “We’re All In This Together.”
IT has been tilling acreage in the prog garden for quite some time now; long enough to have laid down strong roots and delivered a healthy harvest. Indeed; “We’re All In This Together” is the fifth album IT has offered to the masses in twenty plus years…but for the immediate let us envelope ourselves in the this new release and discover the wonder that is IT…
The first cut released as a single is “Revolution” and it comes at you right away–straight between the eyes. The percussion tells you this song has no intention of backing down; the tension mounts as short direct vocal snippets pierce the skin…and then chaos reigns down. The song erupts like a levee unable to hold back the flood, and just as suddenly it rescinds. You begin to assess the damage but your auditory canals are flooded once again…the tempo continues to run the gambit from complete bedlam to controlled restraint. However; the message is bold and clear–you cannot and will not hold IT back. The prog garden may just be ground zero for the new uprising…
The next track to catch my attention is called “The Path of Least Resistance.” An opening reminiscent of a police state clampdown, this piece enters through the headphones and traces a path directly to the heart. IT continues to fill the canvas with dark colors, but more out of necessity than desire. IT has the urgency of The Mute Gods, the angst of Seconds Before Landing, and the relevance of The Clash at their counterculture best. IT ties it all together in burlap with a bow made from old navy yard rope…
Liner Notes…IT calls London home, the place where many a great prog band got its start. The band originally came together in 1994 using multimedia outlets to get their message out. Almost a throwback to the 60’s but with up-to-date technology, IT used videos playing behind the band to coincide with deep lyrics, a dark portentous sound, and a thought provoking intensity to grab the listener by the ears and dare you not to get involved. By 2009 IT had four albums to their credit and continued to dig deeper, bringing profundity to the prog garden in songs dealing with all the madness and mayhem the world had to offer.
Going through the inevitable growing pains, maturing, growth, and just plain soul searching, IT was on hiatus after album #4…using that time to solidify the band and put together what would become “We’re All In This Together.” The current line-up is Nick Jackson on guitar and vocals, Andy Rowberry on lead guitar, James Hawkins on bass, Ryan McCaffrey on keyboards, and Will Chism on drums. IT is part of the Progressive Gears Records stable of prog bands and well worth immersing yourself in…
The last slice to fill out this week’s prog buffet is titled, “The Working Man.” The song opens on the dark side as you would expect–but this is more rye toast dark than charred pumpernickel coal. There are slices of light cutting through the doom and gloom, much like rays of sunshine piercing the rain clouds after a thunderstorm rages across an open field…which makes the brightness that much more glaring. Don’t misinterpret; this is not a “clap your hands and hug your neighbor” happy upbeat tune. Rather it is a song that declares the defiance, pride, and determination of those that carry the weight every day without fanfare. Top notes of Fire Garden permeate the air, as do hints of Lost In Kiev and Scarlet INside. The Dropkick Murphys without the throat punch…prog for the introspective…
Learn more about IT at their website IT Band. The new album as well as the band’s previous releases can be found here…and of course this is my plea for you to support IT and all the bands that make the prog garden their home. You can get more info on IT and other bands on the Progressive Gears label on Twitter @ProgGears, Facebook Progressive Gears FB, and on the Progressive Gears Bandcamp site Progressive Gears BC. Don’t think of it as tasking a risk–think of it as taking charge.
The clip posted below is a smorgasbord of tastes from the new album…designed to draw you in and capture your emotions like a siren call to the prog faithful. If The Mute Gods put the world on notice, IT is telling you there is still time…but you have to stand up and act now. Passion and grit drip from this album like sweat from the brow of a third shift factory worker…and the aroma is what satisfaction smells like…
You know when you listen to an album and then look the band up and realise you have missed out a fair few albums and some cracking music? Well that’s how I feel about IT and the album ‘W.A.I.T.T.’ (We’re All In This Together) after just a couple of plays. It is definitely an album of, and for, its time. 2017 is a time of flux politically with some scary things happening to everyday people everyday right now. This album is one that reflects that narrative very well.
Nick Jackson (mastermind No 1), Andy Rowberry (mastermind No 2), James Hawkins (Bass), Will Chism (Drums), and Ryan McCaffrey (keyboards/saxophone) form the band, each seem to have their hands in many pies but they still feel like a unit on this album. Check the website out for whom and what they are, it’s fascinating to see the influences they cite, no spoilers from me I promise.
Thematically the album is roughly the equivalent of “I am Daniel Blake”, the narrative of an austerity ridden country on the wrong end of one too many cuts and the impact these make on the key characters. In 10 songs we are taken on a journey cutting from the political voice to the personal voices of the characters. Opening with Power, a menacing bass line drags in a driving guitar riff with an urgent riff building tension relieved only briefly by spoken voiceovers, talking of the selfish power mad political masters.
Now, before I go any further I want to stop and reflect that the subject matter is dark and filled with insurrection and revolution. Although political in context this in no way makes this preaching or ranting in the way it delivers. Think of Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ or Steven Wilson with ‘Hand Cannot Erase’ as topical and full of insight but still damned fine albums rather than the protest songs that will be filling your minds from my first few paragraphs. Much has been said by Prog Fans about politics and music and how they should never mix. Although I fundamentally disagree with that, I accept that some think this and I do not want to prevent anyone from even trying to hear what I see as an excellent album.
Moving swiftly on, the music flows from one song to another and has been considered and crafted to have the feel of a single suite rather than 10 songs glued together in the name of a “concept”. The Working Man is catchy and has a rather gloomy, if eminently ‘singalong’, chorus line. “Living on a landfill of plastic and bone” is an ear worm if ever there was one, if a tad strange to anyone not tuned into to your headphones. This is melancholy in the mould of Porcupine Tree or Steve Thorne, at its best poppy & accessible but also with hidden depths.
Gamble The Dream is a real rock out with a hard guitar riff driving the song, reflecting the pressure on the economy and the drive to achieve. In the gloomy Voices we find ourselves in the head of the protagonist of the album. A George Galloway speech slots in here assaulting Blair and Bush directly on the impact of the Iraq War and the aftermath. The most challenging song on the album but it is anthemic in its delivery.
The epic in length and content The Path Of Least Resistance, at just under 12 minutes, showcases the song writing and musicianship. The key and time signature changes with a wailing guitar solo are wholly worthy of a Guthrie or a Gilmour.
The album ends with Revolution, a thundering bass line with a malevolent tone and a Theremin (?) wailing in the background. The ultimate end to all corrupt systems or a desire change things in extreme circumstances? Again another riff and hook line here that you may well find yourself singing along to on the commute home.
This album has something for everyone – strong riffology, melody, song writing at its core and a tongue in it’s cheek throughout. If art is a reflection of society then this album is art. Fans of Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree or Steven Wilson will find something in this to delight in. This is the face of modern Prog shown in a bright light. It blows the cobwebs away stimulates the brain and challenges us to think.
As ever this is not a song by song review nor is it highlights but a whistle stop tease and my opinion of the Album.
Guy Bellamy – Great Music Stories
Set in a Covent Garden street café in the early evening shadows of autumn 2016, I conducted what was to become a four-part feature interview with IT. That session captured the essence and parameters on what was to become their first studio album for seven years, after the critically acclaimed ‘Departure.’ At this early stage, as the narrative for the new album was forming, one could tell the creative juices were reacting to the austerity era, the challenges to the NHS and the broken trust in leaders. In the weeks that followed I gave the UK radio premiere to the new single ‘Revolution’ – which put a clear flag in the ground on what was to follow. The result next week is an album about ‘the now.’ The band IT is back – and with something to say.
From putting this album on for the first time, you have an unmistakable sense of a band looking at world events and fed up with the endless dreary newspaper front pages – driven to pick up their instruments and react. What comes over on this album feels like a natural outpouring of feelings, emotions, frustrations and sentiments – a mood. There is nothing contrived or manufactured or ‘clever:’ IT just IS.
‘Power’ – has a sense of menace, even chaos – echoed later with ‘Gamble The Dream.’ Urgency of pace, hounding rhythm and lyrics that say it directly – words and sentiments that catalogue frustration at recent world events and that sense broken trust and bewilderment many feel towards those that make the big decisions.
On a few tracks, there’s an unmistakable nod to Floyd, but this is not an album that fits neatly into the ‘progressive’ genre silo. In fact the best tracks are those that move furthest away from the prog mould. There are no goblins or dwarves on this album – and only one song that has the length that stretches anywhere near ‘suite’ territory. This album has pace, energy and grit. It’s not prog – it’s widescreen: It’s not experimental – it’s driven: It’s not referencing past styles – it’s future looking.
Parking the prog label, with ‘The Working Man’ the feeling is more of a panoramic, widescreen soundscape – and when the power guitar solo kicks in – with keyboards and wailing b/v’s – it goes beyond widescreen to more a 3D wall of sound.
This is a different kind of protest album. Some are just “annoyed” – but this engages and, in a way, empowers. ‘Power’ and ‘Born Into Debt’ have a rugged truth about them, menace and direct lyrics – but in ‘The Working Man’ and ‘Last Chance’ the power choruses and guitar solos give you a feeling of a call to action. Save the NHS, stand together and make the world a better place. This kind of makes the music useful rather than just a statement of fact or a reflective piece of art.
‘Gamble The Dream’ and ‘Voices’ perhaps do most to capture the feeling of the album. Gamble is fast-paced, tense and angular. If ever you wanted to go into a room and scream in reaction to what’s going on in the world, this would be the perfect musical backdrop! The lyrics though have an edge to them that speak for millions of people angry with what they see going on in the world. ‘Voices’ kicks into life with words from George Galloway – a song that has a directness and raw power that I’ve not heard in a protest song in current times. It’s brave, direct and totally unapologetic and is the creative high point of the album.
There’s plenty of drama on this album – but it’s but not over-produced, captured or manufactured. The expressive artwork by Melissa Connors also works really well to reinforce the musical mood.
The guitar work is seriously good, with some fabulous solos. ‘Path Of Least Resistance’ allows for some of this – and it’s not prog guitar, the guitar work gives the album a heavy edge, too wild and raw in places to be called prog in my view.
‘Revolution’ was a track I premiered on my Friday rock show back in November 2016. My only criticism of the new album is, to me, this song should open rather than close the album. It’s one of the best songs the band has done and it captures well the essence of the whole album in just five minutes.
As a contemporary protest album, this IT album draws some parallels to Marillion’s sensational F.E.A.R album last autumn – an outstanding protest album with songs beautiful and elaborate in their construction. This IT album doesn’t have these layers but it is more direct. To me, it’s actually far closer to Fugazi, released during an 80s of Thatcher and The Berlin Wall.
Why check out this album? There are rock albums that make you want to dance around the kitchen table while your supper slowly burns in the oven. Feel good rock’n’roll and escapism matter and energise. But every now and then one needs to sit back and listen, really listen, to an album that talks about the world we’re in and the issues influencing our lives and our choices. With hindsight, some of the greatest rock has been written during times of protest; they can be times when rock as a genre shows it’s relevance, power and true heart. And my feeling is there may be a lot more of it on the way.
This IT offering doesn’t sound like another album I’ve heard in the last year. For some rock fans, it may not be easy listening or everyday listening but it has something to say and is unnervingly about ‘the now’. Whether you agree with the sentiments – and irrespective of whether you like prog – this is an album about the world we live in in 2017. This is like an audio reaction to the home news section of a newspaper. Agree with it or not, like it or not, you should at least experience it. After all, we ARE all in this together.
IT: ‘We’re All In This Together’ is released on 1 March 2017.
My four-part interview series on the story of the band and the creative development behind this new album will be up online for listen again in March following the release of the album.
Incredible thinking man’s prog
As the joke always used to run on the brilliant I.T Crowd comedy show, whenever anyone rang I.T support they’d be met with the same response from Roy and Moss: “have you turned it off and on again?”
Perhaps London prog collective I.T took that a little too literally, given that this is their first record since 2009. Whatever, “We’re All In This Together” – the title of a which is taken from an infamous speech by the then leader of the opposition, David Cameron, gave to the Tory party conference in that year – sees the band take to task just about everything that has occurred during that time.
To that end, it is fair to start, not at the beginning but towards the end, with the quite astonishing “Voices” which features an incredible spoken word passage from Respect Party leader George Galloway, in which he calls for Tony Blair to tried for War Crimes and vows to fight him “for as long as God gives me breath”.
The track also includes some dark imagery which sees “the caskets being taken down to Wooton Bassett” and is one of the best and most thought provoking pieces of work you are likely to hear.
The same could be said for the whole of “W.A.I.T.T”. Indeed, you can really see the bands origins as multi media pioneers in the 1990s. The record starts with a clip of a some kind of banker explaining how you can make money from the recession, while “Power” proceeds to excoriate him and his ilk.
Musically it is an interesting prog brew, which ranges from the stark electronics of the opener, to the more lush soundscapes of “Born Into Debt” – think latter day Marillion circa “The Sounds That Can’t Be Made – while “The Working Man” almost melds the two together.
There is, despite the fact that this is a mighty and weighty prog work, an impressive brevity here. “The Working Man” boasts fine but understated guitar, together with some backing vocals that recall Mansun’s heyday of the late 90s – but still does it in less than five minutes.
When it does feel the need to stretch itself it does so for effect, not because it thinks it should. “The Path Of Least Resistance” – the longest track here by some way – is a slow builder of an epic, dealing with the riots of a few summers ago (“grab the flatscreen and the shoes/we’ll make you famous on the news”) it is superb and interesting song.
As it goes on – and the cinematic “Down The Hatch” is a real highlight – there is barely an aspect of British life that isn’t picked over, before it all concludes with the rabble rousing “Revolution” which positively crackles with electricity, as well as wrapping itself a genuinely heavy hook.
There is, of course, a time and a place for all different type of music and sometimes brainless rock n roll hits the spot. “We’re All In This Together” most definitely isn’t that. Instead its clever, challenging and very, very good indeed.
I.T are a band rebooted.
Every Monday night at 11pm for around five years I sat alone in a small radio station in the centre of a small English country town and produced The DPRP Radio show. I listen to and played an awful lot of music. Some great; some good, some not so good. Every so often I had a studio guest or a pre recorded interview featuring a particular band. One of those was the UK-based band called IT. I remember enjoying the music and the interview, being surprised that I had never heard of them before and interested to see what they would come up with next.
That was around seven years ago now. A lot of music has run under my bridge since then. Some great; some good, some not so good. DPRP Radio is on permanent hibernation and I no longer live in that small English country town (I am actually writing this from a small French rural hamlet!).
Thus I had totally forgotten about the UK-based prog rock band called IT, until one day a striking black and white photo-covered CD dropped through my post box pronouncing that “we’re all in this together”.
Beginning life as a psychedelic, multi-media group, IT was formed in 1994 when Nick Jackson recorded and produced the band’s first full-length album The Stranger Inside the Self, followed by the album Two Worlds in early 1995. There was a seven year wait for album number three, Over & Out, after which the line-up grew and become more permanent, with the addition of Andy Rowberry on lead guitar. There was another seven year hiatus before Departure arrived in 2009 with an accompanying DVD (review here) giving an indication of the powerful onstage visuals that had by now become an integral part of the IT experience.
While a week is apparently a long time in politics, it’s been another seven year gap between IT albums and almost a quarter of a century since they were formed. But in finally delivering an album of this quality, We’re All In This Together is proof, if ever you needed it, that terrible stuff happens immediately, but good things take time.
If you care to add a cynical dose of irony, then, with a little bit of context, the title tells you all you need to know about the concept of this album.
“We’re all in this together”, was a phrase from a key speech by UK Chancellor George Osborne in 2009 indicating that his government’s austerity programme would require sacrifices from everyone. His policies which followed, suggested to some that “everyone” did not apply to everyone equally!
In taking that as the standpoint, the lyrics offer a no-holds-barred surgery on the anger that has characterised many communities in pre- and post-Brexit Britain. On some concept albums you can set aside the lyrical matter and just enjoy the music. Here the political anger and the music are so intertwined and complementary, that one would fall without the other.
Within the political horizon of this album, difficult topics such as religion, war and sexuality all come under the band’s critique, exploring themes of austerity, inequality and an uncertain future for younger generations (hence the cover). The lyrics are challenging, not preachy and occasionally lightened by some black humour. I like artists who have something to say. And IT have a lot to say in their hour of airplay here.
But the concept “story” is actually only half of the story here. For an album to successfully deliver a tough message, the music has to have the weight and impact to not be overwhelmed. Thankfully each of the 10 tracks here are pure, modern progressive rock heavyweights. This is impressive stuff.
All the tracks were written and produced by Nick Jackson and Andy Rowberry with three of the tracks co-written by James Hawkins (bass) and Will Chism (drums). James and Will have become established members, touring with IT since the Departure album.
Ryan McCaffrey is the fifth member of IT, adding sax, piano, organ and Fender Rhodes, amidst nine guests musicians with lap steel guitar, trumpet, organ and backing vocals. We even have an appearance from controversial left-wing politician George Galloway, adding speech to the anti-Iraq war song, Voices.
With all these ingredients gathered together, IT have taken their influences from classic and more modern progressive rock, a need for memorable hooks and melodies, a desire to create their own sound, and the concept album necessity of wrapping the lyrical themes within and around an appropriate soundscape. The result is a robustly entertaining collection of ten songs (yes songs), each of which stands on its own, and as part of the wider work.
It’s an angry album but not a dark album. There is a brightness and energy to the music that is uplifting, maybe even inspiring (for change?). The arrangements are clever and layered. The melodies are memorable, very memorable. Every song offers a different groove and mix of styles, whilst the production allows space for every element to shine. Everything is of an impressively high standard.
We’re All In This Together is a truly splendid slice of relevant, articulate modern progressive rock. It is by far and away the best thing that IT have ever produced. It will certainly be one of my favourite albums of 2017. Roll on 2024!
Conclusions: Andy Read: 9 out of 10
Music Waves (Review in French) Rating 4/5
En 2009, Music Waves découvrait avec grand plaisir “Departure”, quatrième album de IT qui, pour l’occasion, nous proposait un album rock nerveux à souhait, légèrement teinté de progressif. Huit années ont passé et le groupe – du moins ce qu’il en reste puisque de la formation qui a sévi sur le précédent opus ne restent que le duo Nick Jackson (voix) / Andy Rowberry (guitares) – nous revient avec un ambitieux “We’re All in This Together”, publié sur le label Progressive Gears, marqué par un propos empli de noirceur, évoquant l’état actuel de la société et tous les maux qui la gangrènent, avec comme (seul ?) futur une révolution.
Et pour pleinement assumer son propos, le quintet démarre cette nouvelle galette plein pot, avec le bien-nommé ‘Power’, sorte de brûlot aux sonorités electro-hard, accompagné dans le même style et en conclusion de l’album du magnifique et inquiétant ‘Revolution’ dont la basse répétitive et lancinante soutient des saillies de guitares rappelant Porcupine Tree. Ce dernier groupe fait effectivement figure de référence dans la musique de IT, les alternances de parties de guitare toutes en tension avec des passages assagis étant une des caractéristiques de la musique présente sur “W.A.T.T.”.
Mais là où “Departure” se contentait de dérouler ses brûlots rock nerveux, ce nouvel album se révèle bien plus progressif, allant notamment butiner copieusement du côté du Pink Floyd de David Gilmour, tant dans la composition que dans le rendu (vocaux et guitare) avec notamment ‘Born into Debt’ et ‘Working Man’. Et du rock progressif, il en est bien entendu question dans le splendide titre epic de quasiment 12 minutes qui vient définitivement ancrer cet album tout en haut de la pyramide des productions actuelles (‘The Path of Least Resistance’) : thèmes variés, changements d’ambiance, de rythmiques, chorus enthousiasmants, production parfaite, mariage subtil de sonorités électriques et électro, ce plat de résistance se déguste de bout en bout avec délectation. Et pour parfaire le tout, IT nous emmène également du côté néo-progressif, avec un enchaînement parfait vers un ‘House’ qui renvoie vers les atours chatoyants de Millenium, guitare sautillante et intonations du chanteur comprises.
Dans un style plus varié que son prédécesseur, ce nouvel album de IT va emmener l’auditeur dans un tourbillon musical dont il aura quelque peine à se détacher, propulsant le groupe dans les hautes sphères du rock progressif moderne. A ne rater sous aucun prétexte.
Sept ans après “Departure”, IT nous revient dans un line-up complètement renouvelé par son mentor et leader Nick Jackson ; le contenu de ”We’re All In This Together” se veut un plaidoyer contre les élites qui nous gouvernent, plus soucieuses de préserver leur propre intérêt que d’assurer un avenir aux futures générations ; un tableau sombre de nos sociétés actuelles dont la seule issue serait, peut être, une révolution ; mais quid de la musique ?
Quésaco? Oui, « quésaco » de la locution occitane rentré dans nos dictionnaires de référence est signifiant « Qu’est ce que c’est ? » ! Quésaco donc que cet album estampillé rock progressif tant il me semble difficile de le répertorier dans une catégorie précise ; le fait est que Nick Jackson et sa bande ont créé un hybride musical à l’ADN rock, hard rock, AOR, pop, métal, rock alternatif et … rock progressif tout de même.
Surprenant et donc tout a fait dans la lignée du type d’album qui a largement sa place sur Néoprog tant il a des marqueurs génétiques qui suscitent tout notre intérêt et que je vous laisserai découvrir au fil des écoutes !Trois titres très bien composés ‘Power’ le bien nommé, ‘Gamble the dream’ et ‘Revolution’ vous propulseront dans un univers hard rock à la rythmique soutenue au son puissant et efficace.Passage en terres mélodiques aux senteurs floydiennes parfois avec ‘Born Into Debt’, ‘The Working Man’ et ‘House’ avec un travail de claviers et synthés résolument moderne voire électro qui donne une ambiance toute particulière tout au long de l’album.
Retour vers du rock, voire du hard rock, avec les titres ‘Last Chance’, ‘Voices’ et le puissant ‘Down the Hatch’ où on ne s’ennuie jamais tant le jeu sur les tensions musicales et les passages plus calme tiennent en éveil nos oreilles de mélomanes.
Enfin tout l’art de IT est contenu dans ‘The Path of Least Resistance’, le seul titre au format progressif captivant de bout en bout ; tout y est parfait, la construction musicale, les vocaux, enthousiasmant !
Oyez brave lecteurs, faites fi de tout a priori et entrez dans l’univers d’IT (pas E.T. hein ! Quoi que !) car avec « We’re All In This Together » difficilement classable, servi par une production irréprochable et un enchaînement de titres sous tension très bien pensé, IT nous tient en haleine de bout en bout.