Exposé Online banner

Thinking Plague — In This Life
(Cuneiform Rune 407, 1989/2015, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-02-15

In This Life Cover art

Here in the West Wing of Exposé Headquarters (AKA my house), Thinking Plague occupies a place of honor as the preeminent American avant-prog band, their reputation tainted only slightly by the long gaps between their albums. Going by their past release schedule, we can expect a new album sometime between next week and 2020. In the meantime, Cuneiform gives us the reissue of their ground-breaking 1989 album In This Life, which cemented their reputation upon its release. This also completes their catalog on Cuneiform, since it was originally put out by ReR. For fans of RIO or avant-rock, describing this music is probably redundant, but for newcomers it might be worth noting that for creative electric music almost totally divorced from the tradition of rock – meaning there’s no relation to the blues – Thinking Plague is one of the major pillars. In This Life is overflowing with ideas: new ways to approach how bass, drum kit, and electric guitar can interact; unconventional and unpredictable melodies with artistic lyrics unbound by conventions of verses and choruses; production methods that go far beyond just capturing performances but don’t sound artificial or arbitrary; and ridiculous musical complexity that never sounds like it’s there for its own sake, but in service of an artistic vision. I don’t have a copy of the original CD to compare the sound, but I can definitely say that this is beautiful. A sure bet is that unless you’re a die-hard symphonic prog fan who doesn’t care for angular, twisty music (in which case you probably stopped reading quite a ways back), this needs to be in your collection if it isn’t already. (It’s worth noting that the original ReR CD included two tracks, “Moonsongs” and “Possessed,” which are not on this release. Those were taken from previous recordings, and are now available on Early Plague Years.)


Filed under: Reissues, 2015 releases, 1989 recordings

Related artist(s): Fred Frith, Thinking Plague, Bob Drake, Susanne Lewis

Latest news

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Robert Fripp String Quintet - The Bridge Between – Robert Fripp's latest release, The Bridge Between, is credited to 'The Robert Fripp String Quartet,' comprised of Fripp, Trey Gunn on Stick, and The California Guitar Trio. The album is a...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues