Passionate polemics for the here and now on album number 10.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous place if you spend too long languishing in its captivating embrace. The desire to re-experience a taste of the time and place of our past can not only be addictive but can easily switch from bittersweet pleasure to an obsession that defies rationality. One need only look at the nostalgic ideas infesting the current political narrative across both sides of the Atlantic for proof of this. When it comes to music it seems that, regardless of the genre, the past is constantly encroaching upon the present. Like some occupying army with an arsenal of retro sounds, retreads and references, it’s very hard for
SPIKEY AND COMBATIVE ARRANGEMENTS WITH AN UNSWERVING VELOCITY.
anyone to sound different and fresh, never mind genuinely innovative, with too many groups piling on the Mellotron or revving up a mini-Moog in lieu of anything interesting to say.
While keyboardist Andy Tillison is often willing to set his oscillators to maximum wig-out mode, it’s icing on the cake and never as a substitute for an intricate motif or a dramatic extension. With Proxy’s five tracks working as a kind of extended suite, the long-form writing displayed here is beautifully crafted. There are few composers working in the field that can claim to be as rigorous or as exacting as Tillison.
Not for the first time, the polemics hard-wired into The Tangent’s lyrics recognise nostalgia’s seductiveness as well as the traps it can set for bands operating in contemporary progressive rock. On the furious j’accuse of Supper’s Off he spits out, ‘I was born into a time when people walked on the moon/When bands wrote symphonies and tone poems.’ In those words you can hear the wonder and incredulity ultimately replaced by bewildered anger as he rails about the collapse of artistic aspiration and the race to the bottom: ‘I find myself part of a generation that lapped up wealth/That created Simon Cowell.’ The appearance of Richard Farnsworth’s voice and his line from David Lynch’s The Straight Story, “the worst part of being old is rememberin’ when you was young’’, hangs poignantly in the atmosphere.
With the title track taking aim at government’s imperialist excesses, the indignation posited in the words finds a perfect vehicle for their expression in spikey and combative arrangements, which barrel along with a remarkable, unswerving velocity. Repeated listening reveals a multitude of details easily missed first time around. Exquisite work from guitarist Luke Machin, bassist Jonas Reingold and Steve Roberts’ propulsive drumming, as well as decisive contributions from sax and flute from Theo Travis, all lend Proxy an effortless agility.