Who's The Boss In The Factory
First, an observation about area bands: It's possible The Flower Kings are one of those bands that I really should like. Not only do they make progressive hard rock with a strong emphasis on melody, but there is musical inbreeding with some of my favorite bands. So far I've listened to four of their albums, and while I can acknowledge the craftsmanship none of the songs manage to land any punches to my musical sweet tooth.
Enter Karmakanic (pronounced "Car Mechanic"), a side project by The Flower Kings bassist Jonas Reingold, and their third album, Who's the Boss in the Factory. Cue the theme music from the SNL "Lowered Expectations" skit.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the six songs on this album are surprisingly pleasant. Reingold manages to cherry pick some of the best elements of progressive music's previous decades and form them around well written songs that hold your attention despite being upwards of 20 minutes long.
The opening track, "Send A Message From The Heart," starts off with a three-minute prelude of orchestral instrumental rock (akin to Spocks Beard), eventually filling out the 20 minutes with nods to Styx and Dark Side-era Pink Floyd while maintaining it's own identity. There are a minimum of musical themes, each fully developed and explored, all centered around a space-age jazz trio jam of bass, drums and crazy synth. While not an essential song in the canon of progressive music, it's easily a solid B-plus. The contrasting "Let In Hollywood" eschews all the grandiose orchestral trappings of the former song and opts instead for forcing as much passion and energy as the angular 7/4 meter allows while still keeping a heavy, foot-stomping groove. Even more gutsy guitars are found in the title track, a 13-minute monster that begins on a somber piano melody before cranking up the amps for an earworm chorus filled with syrupy sweet vocal harmonies and an "I Am The Walrus" orchestral chug beneath the singing guitars. Throw in one of many tastefully restrained guitar solos and a massive ending filled with choir and organs and you've got a winner.
"Two Blocks From The Edge" takes the established Karmakanic sound and adds a healthy dose of saxophone, bringing in elements of the aforementioned Pink Floyd classic as well as the undeniable 80s while espousing lyrics such as "The more you learn the less you know." The song has a slow burning groove that is the perfect setting for another passionate guitar solo. The final track, "Eternally," is about Jonas' parents who were killed last year in a car accident shortly before Christmas. It is fittingly solemn and emotional but never verging into melodrama. Highlights include a weeping, searing guitar, real strings (yes, it does make a difference) and an accordion. No, I'm not making that up. Special guest Lelo Nika can tear things up on the squeezebox while avoiding nary a hint of polka. Trust me on this … it just fits.
In fact, the entire album fits. Who's The Boss In The Factory is a solid album start to finish. While perhaps a bit proggy for mainstream rock fans, those who enjoy Styx or Asia or Kansas should check this album out. As for me I guess I'll have to give The Flower Kings yet another try. (Jason Hoffman)
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