229, London. 16 November 2019
Photos: Simon Green
It’s always interesting to step outside of what you believe to be your wide circle of musical knowledge as you quickly realise that your circle is just a tiny circle in a universe of many other circles of almost infinite possibilities. It’s also a good thing to keep those musical horizons as far reaching as possible, even if you are visiting regions that you think might be inhospitable; not that this was the case as I visited the subterranean part of the 229 venue for an evening of Prog Rock. When I was at school back in the day there was quite a large following for Prog, which mostly passed me by as being a bit fey and self-indulgent. However, without really knowing anything of the genre, the bits and pieces I have come across randomly over the years have generally been interesting musically and not too painful on the ears. While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement it meant that I was quite looking forward to seeing these two, to me, unknown acts. It turned out to be a really enjoyable evening of melodic and expansive music.The gallery was not found!
I haven’t a clue what songs The Paradox Twin played but I’m guessing they were probably from their recent (and only) album The Importance of Mr Bedlam, which is well worth a listen and is full of long songs (I presume any song under 5 minutes means your Prog rock badge gets taken away) full of flowing sustained guitar lines floating above orchestral synths. Singer and guitarist Danny Sorrell had the trademark long hair and beard and was dressed in non-descript black clothes (not a wizard’s cape in sight) flanked on either by the visually arresting bassist Diane Fox and singer Nicole Johnson, both in white dresses that suggested they’d popped out of their temple in Atlantis for the evening. A bit like the annual office party, with the girls having made ten times the effort on presentation! Par for the course, the band were mostly heads down in concentration as they delivered the quite complex but melodic numbers with passion, which, although unfamiliar, were very listenable. They got a good response from the audience and are well worth catching.
Internet searches for The Room bring up mainly references to a film of the same name that appears to be one of the biggest turkeys ever, to the extent that it’s become a cult classic of the “so bad it’s good” variety. Not a phrase that could be applied to the band, who delivered a powerful set of songs taken mainly from their recent album, Caught By The Machine. Not knowing anything about them I was expecting to see another youthful group get up on stage. It’s fair to say that most of the band have been around the block a few times and are not providing their local barbers’ with much business these days. Vocalist and frontman Martin Wilson, dressed more like an ageing New Waver, was the main focal point and, along with the rest of the band gave an energetic performance.
The group’s songs have all the complexity you’d expect from the Prog genre but were all quite punchy and to the point, even with some extended soloing from the two technically excellent guitarists Eric Bouillette and Steve Andersen. Opening with a big chorus song, The Golden Ones, from the new album the scene was set for the rest of the evening, melodic rock played with spirit; other tracks from the new album included the excellent and very poppy sounding Bodies On The Road. For Drowning In Sand the band were joined by singer Nicole Johnson, who duetted powerfully with Martin Wilson. Although not on their set list I’m pretty certain they also slipped in Bloodstream (as an extra encore) which has a fabulous riff and combines all the Prog elements alongside a funky guitar groove. The singer quipped that they did not totally conform to the characteristics of the Prog genre and as outsiders were like the Millwall of the scene. If that’s the case, then they should continue down their chosen path as this has produced a very listenable set of songs (just leave out the rioting and violent behaviour). The band also commented on the fact their keyboard player had left the band on the eve of their tour, which must have left a big hole, but to their credit did not appear to these ears to have affected the quality of their performance. They’re good! Well worth a listen if they cruise into your orbit.