Emo­tional Tat­toos In­SId­eOuT Songs for the sta­di­ums from eLP’s old muck­ers.

Prog - - Limelight - SID SmItH

Join­ing the ros­ter of Man­ti­core record­ing artists at the be­hest of Greg Lake in 1973, there’s no doubt that an as­so­ci­a­tion with what was then one of the big­gest prog rock acts in the Western world helped PFM reach a wider au­di­ence. To be fair to Mi­lan’s finest, though, their suc­cess wasn’t en­tirely down to rock star largesse. They had the tal­ent to jus­tify the at­ten­tion heaped upon them on the in­ter­na­tional scene af­ter the daz­zling bril­liance of Pho­tos Of Ghosts and other sub­se­quent re­leases.

Decades later, af­ter pe­ri­ods of in­ac­tiv­ity, var­i­ous re­for­ma­tions and chang­ing line-ups, orig­i­nal mem­ber Franz Di Cioc­cio, the band’s drum­mer and vo­cal­ist, re­mains a con­stant pres­ence, and it’s his leath­ery voice, fil­tered through a light gauze of phas­ing, that dom­i­nates these new songs.

With the two-CD edi­tion pre­sent­ing an in­stru­men­tally iden­ti­cal mix but with vo­cals in ei­ther English or Ital­ian, there are points when the stately progress of lan­guid syn­thrich themes or jaunty, folk-flecked melodies evoke some­thing of the group’s 70s hey­day. The rous­ing in­stru­men­tal Free­dom Square could eas­ily give Cel­e­bra­tion a run for its money when it comes to de­posit­ing ear­worms in your head. I’m Just A Sound par­tially in­hab­its the fu­sion-friendly hair­pin bends PFM used to place in prox­im­ity to their more ro­man­tic and an­themic in­cli­na­tions, while A Day We Share cir­cu­lates an in­sis­tent rhyth­mic mo­tif, set upon by var­i­ous con­tra­pun­tal de­vices and, in­con­gru­ously per­haps, a happy, poppy cho­rus.

While un­doubt­edly a metic­u­lously groomed, high-end pro­duc­tion, every­thing ap­pears var­nished in a slick, au­ral sheen. The un­for­tu­nate side ef­fect of this is that a lot of the ma­te­rial be­gins to sound ho­mogenised, lack­ing any rough edges or con­trast­ing tex­tures. The sense of things be­ing overly smooth is fur­ther com­pounded by many of the com­po­si­tions them­selves tend­ing to favour a fa­mil­iar, stream­lined, AOR-style con­struc­tion.

While ac­cept­ing that any band, re­gard­less of vin­tage or her­itage, have the right to move on from their past in or­der to shift gears or adopt a mode that bet­ter suits their cur­rent dis­po­si­tion and per­son­nel, a lot of Emo­tional Tat­toos sounds like a group locked firmly in their com­fort zone. That’s fine, of course – one per­son’s col­lec­tion of sym­phonic rock­ers can eas­ily be an­other’s overly bland soft rock con­coc­tion.

None of this means that Emo­tional Tat­toos is a bad al­bum – in fact, it’s very good in places. How­ever, it’s dif­fi­cult to feel that it rep­re­sents PFM at their most dis­tinc­tive or freshest.



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