The Concept Album. Reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. Okay, I suppose it never really went away but it is certainly a format that has for a long time been at odds with current vogue, but finally help has arrived. In the hands of Tinyfish it has been imbued with new life. Gone are the effete and flaky hippy ramblings that form the stereotypical image of such a beast to be replaced with a mean and lean slab of dark dystopian creativity and edgy, unpredictable twists. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you, The Big Red Spark.
Fusing together a mix of operatic guitar lines, swift dynamic changes and spoken word they have created an album that plays out like a dark futuristic warning and which sounds like the musical H.G.Wells may have written if he had been a young man today, or possibly Jeff Wayne getting to grips with Orwell’s 1984.
Based around the vague concept of society’s demise at the hands of the creation of a vast and unspecified technology, it manages to build a musical landscape that is at a turn aggressive, horrific, reflective and hopeful. The usual neo-progressive forms are often at work here but the shadows that loom large over their world for my money are those of Schoenberg, Kafka and even Muse rather than the more obvious references of say Rush and Marillion.
Musically it brings a lot to the table, but that music is as much part of the story telling as are the narrative segments, adding mood and atmosphere to the cold words and stark imagery that is being revealed. For every driven Rainland there is a warped orchestral Building the Machine and in between the voice of the Young Professor describes the cold machinations of the worlds demise.
In short it’s a brilliantly conceived and wonderfully delivered piece of work and one that should find firm fans in a world whose media seems shored up by films of apocalyptic predictions and dark fantastic scenarios.
The concept album is dead, long live the concept album.