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Rocking Horse Music Club — Circus of Wire Dolls
((Not on label) Plane Groovy PLG113, 2022, 2CD / 2LP)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-02-14

Circus of Wire Dolls Cover art

When last we met Rocking Horse Music Club, they were paying tribute to Anthony Phillips on Which Way the Wind Blows. Before that, they had an album called Every Change of Seasons, which contained original material that I haven’t heard. With Circus of Wire Dolls, they return to original compositions, in this case a concept album spanning two CDs and running over an hour and a half in length. The core of the project is the trio of Brian Coombes, Justin Cohn, and Patrik Gochez, who handle songwriting, production, vocals, and various instruments between them. They are abetted by a number of others native to their local area in New Hampshire, namely Brenden Harisiades (bass), Myron Kibbee (guitar), Mike McAdam (guitar), and Eric Wagley (drums). A large number of guests, both well-known and lesser-known, make appearances. The most prominent names involved are David Cross (King Crimson), Kate St John (Dream Academy), John Hackett, Kenwood Dennard (Brand X), Greg Hawkes (The Cars), and Tim Bowness (No Man), along with Chris Difford and Melvin Duffy from Squeeze. The 22 tracks are classy and sophisticated, though not generally what would be called “progressive” on an individual basis. You won’t find complex polyphony, odd meters (not many, anyway), or experimental noises, but you will find a variety of tempos and feels, from upbeat rock to jangly ballads to melodic tunes reminiscent of modern musical theater. There’s an ambitious scope without the baggage of pretense that sinks some rock operas. The story involves a craftsman who creates a set of circus performer dolls out of wire and somehow brings them to life, but I’m not sure how much attention one need pay to the story. The music is pleasant and engaging, more like a well-written musical play than a typical progressive rock concept album, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. So put it on, close your eyes, and imagine a stage populated by magically animated circus dolls.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): David Cross, John Hackett, Tim Bowness, Kate St. John, Rocking Horse Music Club

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