PAVLOV’S DOG

A new al­bum from these US veter­ans is al­ways worth wait­ing for.

Prog - - The Musical Box - DAVE LInG

As our favourite bands reach their twi­light years it’s hard to re­sist view­ing new mu­sic though rose-tinted spec­ta­cles. Even a medi­ocre record is bet­ter than no record at all, right? Well, fear not… no such low­er­ing of the bar is re­quired for Prodi­gal Dreamer. Eight long years may have elapsed since Echo & Boo, the se­cond al­bum re­leased since Pavlov’s Dog re­u­nited back in 1990. Front­man David Surkamp has now reached his mid-60s but that re­mark­able he­li­umtinged voice – once de­scribed as a “choir­boy on speed” – shows no sign of pack­ing up, and Prodi­gal Dreamer is full of ma­te­rial that feels like it be­longs in an­other cen­tury.

Hailed as Amer­ica’s first prog band back in the 1970s, Pavlov’s Dog couldn’t hold things to­gether and frag­mented after two quite ex­tra­or­di­nary al­bums full of vi­o­lin-charged, elab­o­rate song struc­tures and mys­ti­cal, olde worlde lyrics. Though fame eluded them, the St Louis band at­tained cult sta­tus, some­thing they have main­tained dur­ing a se­cond spell of ex­is­tence.

The mys­tique that sur­rounds them is well-earned.

Lim­it­ing their out­put to an al­bum a decade main­tains the fever­ish ap­petite of the fans and re­duces the risk of tar­nish­ing an es­timable legacy. With one eye fixed on the past, Prodi­gal Dreamer ar­rives in a sleeve fea­tur­ing a som­bre-look­ing hound, just like the one that adorned their de­but, Pam­pered Me­nial, back in 1975.

Their elo­quence matched by grav­i­tas, each of these 13 songs feels more than usual like a piece of po­etry set to mu­sic. With its ref­er­ence to ‘Rem­brandt-painted smiles’, open­ing track Paris shim­mers cour­tesy of a de­li­ciously mourn­ful vi­o­lin re­frain by Ab­bie Steil­ing. Hard Times boasts the most im­me­di­ate cho­rus, though it’s the laid-back sim­plic­ity of Easter Day and Hurt­ing Kind that will in­tox­i­cate, sooth­ing their weari­ness.

For those un­ac­cus­tomed to its un­ortho­doxy, Surkamp’s de­liv­ery might be a lit­tle hard to swal­low at first, though it soon be­comes an in­stru­ment like all the rest. Along with his colour­ful use of words, David’s sto­ry­telling is for­mi­da­ble. Cry­ing For­ever doc­u­ments an un­happy break-up (‘The whole dream’s shat­tered/Gone, gone, gone/Still I put a piece of you in this song’) but it’s the fi­nal three songs – Be­ing In Love, Shak­ing Me Down and the en­tranc­ingly beau­ti­ful The Winds Wild Early that con­firm the true great­ness of Prodi­gal Dreamer.

Pavlov’s Dog over­looked the UK on their re­cently com­pleted run though con­ti­nen­tal Europe, most likely due to sparse at­ten­dances here back in 2016. We can only hope for an­other record in eight years’ time, and that next time they see fit to re­v­erse that de­ci­sion.

ELO­QUENCE MATCHED BY GRAV­I­TAS, PO­ETRY SET

TO MU­SIC.

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