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Prog Round-up: December 2012

Album Review

Geoff Barton on new releases from The Treat, Stay, E.V.E., Paul Menel and Surreal

The Treat: Lepers & Deities

It’s strange to think that when The Treat formed in 2001, they planned to be a power trio along the lines of Cream and Hendrix’s Experience. That’s because, 11 years down the line, the Oxford band’s fourth full-length finds them entrenched in prog-folk territory. Mike Hyder’s off-kilter songwriting falls between Syd Barrett and Steve Harley, so subversion and hummmabilty go hand-in-hand on each of the 10 songs here. From the bitter, Cockney Rebel-esque Trust to the Zep III-flavoured Headcase Baby, the album is dominated by themes of fragile, or failed, relationships. A prime example is the Tull-influenced SPT: ‘I’m looking at people that I thought I knew/But it seems they were strangers passing thru.’ Hyder is at his most venomous on My Old School, a sneering snipe at his old comprehensive (a teacher named Mr Eagle is described as ‘a right old cunt, a short little Hitler’). On a lighter note, if you’ve ever spent hours up in your attic perusing dog-eared old copies of Commando comic via torchlight, you’ll certainly relate to Little Treasures. (8/10)

Stay: The Fourth Dimension

Barcelona’s Stay recorded this, their fourth album, in Liverpool ‘in order to properly catch the essential sound and pure feelings of the best popular music ever’. The result sounds like The Beatles playing The Soundtrack Of Our Lives’ greatest hits. Bizarrely, the Spanish-accented vocals are more of a bonus than a distraction. Muy divertido. (7/10)

E.V.E.: Equations Vanquish Equality

If you wanna know what E.V.E. stands for, look no further than the album title. (No, we don’t get it, either.) Based in Greece, the band are a vehicle for vocalist/composer Vicky Psarakis. This EP shows great promise, at its best recalling Dream Theater fronted by Amy Lee (Evanescence). Oh, and the spacey, spoken-word intro to Poetic Injustice is simply stunning. (7/10)

Paul Menel: Into Insignificance I Will Pale

Let’s hope ex-IQ frontman Paul Menel hasn’t upset people by saying his solo album “couldn’t be further from the plodding, grandiose prog rock beast”. On the surface this recalls the music of Mike & The Mechanics, but chip away at the facade and you’ll discover a deranged undercurrent, notably on the f-word festooned Lady Luck/Place Your Bets. (7/10)

Surreal: Someday Was Today

Describing their music as “uplifting, progressive pop-rock”, Surreal’s jaunty commercial approach has a lot in common with The Outfield. Their best song, About To Be, features excellent male-female vocal interplay between Corey Lennox and Julie Holmes. The duo also features prominently on highly charged nine-and-a-half minute epic Dusk. (6/10)

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