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Echolyn — As the World
(550 Music BK 57623, 1995, CD)
by Mike McLatchey, Published 1995-07-01Reviewing Echolyn's Sony debut is a chore in itself! This is definitely where words fail — are they progressive? Is it pop? Where does this fit? I'm sure this is going to be cause for many split opinions. Certainly, As the World is a much more pop styled and accessible release than the group's previous output. The sound is highly and professionally produced, (glossy? trendy?) packaged for the average consumer (typical big label cover, average song lengths) and bearing no allegiance to anything that would make Mr./Mrs. Rolling Stone cringe (conformity? Maybe...) Anyway, most should be somewhat familiar with the music due to the promo CD — the incredibly infectious Gentle Giant like title track and the lyrically loaded "My Dear Wormwood" (based on CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters). As the World also includes numbers fans should be familiar with such as "Uncle," "The Cheese Stands Alone," and my favorite of the 16 here "The Wiblet/Audio Verité" suite. (All were played at the Progfest/ProgScape shows.) All these titles reflect the new Echolyn direction — an elaborate and complexly composed (tons of counterpoint, three-part harmonies and some wonderful dissonances) symphonic rock/pop. Vocally, Ray Weston (and Brett Kull and Chris Buzby) are much stronger here. Although their three part harmonies are quite nice, the overwhelming amount of lyrics make the chorus singing get to be a bit too much over the 69 minute length. Speaking of the lyrics, I think many may find them a bit too overbearing at times — sometimes they're poignant, yet other times pretentious. On this album, the most noticeable change is on a few tracks like "Best Regards," that have a feel comparable to XTC's intelligent and happy pop. I think the crux of the situation here is that the style the band is moving in is in a direction that might be too complex/progressive for the average radio listener yet probably too pop styled for the adventurous. Overall, the album is extremely well done. It's quite unnerving to hear music this elaborate with a pop music gloss. In general this is outside my tastes, yet I can't help but be swayed by the superb melodies and all overall professionalism of the album. One thing that does bother me though, is like a typical pop album, you can find yourself liking it a lot at first, but quickly it wears out its welcome. Definitely worth a listen, though...
Related artist(s): Echolyn
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