Spock's Beard

Inside/Out Records, 2005


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Dammit, I wanted to be nice to this CD. I really did.

See, I like Spock's Beard. (Duh, sayeth the regular readers of the DV.) I like 'em a lot. And I wanted to be wrong, a few years ago, when I said Neal Morse leaving the band would make them just another progressive rock band -- nothing special, nothing wonderful. I'll state it again, for posterity; I wanted to be wrong.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If their new CD, Octane, is any indication, I wasn't wrong. Octane is, frankly, a muddle. It's disjointed, uneven, and lacking in anything resembling musical cohesion. While there are individual bright spots, taken together the CD has no unity. When you factor in that most of the CD is supposed to be a theme album, a single musical work -- well. It doesn't work.

Let's cover the good stuff first. Production and engineering are magnificent. (It's a great sounding train wreck in places.) The musicianship is elegant, fantastic, and brilliant as usual. Give the Beard credit; they even manage to restrain Ryo Okumoto from sounding quite so much like Point Of Know Return-era Kansas when he hits the keyboards.

Where Octane fails are the songs. I'm sorry, maybe I'm a spoiled brat, but when a band's portfolio includes incredible things like "Wind At My Back," "Ghosts Of Autumn," "Waste Away" and "Distance To The Sun," I expect better than cliché-fests like "Surfing Down The Avalance" and "As Long As We Ride." Nominally, the first half of the CD is an examination of someone's life literally flashing before their eyes as they're dying, and I understand that may require language a little less poetic than Snow - but a lot of the tracks on Octane are, plain and simple, boring, flat, and weak.

It's not all bad. There are some good tracks on Octane -- I really liked "She Is Everything" and "There Was A Time" -- but the ultimate test is this; there are eleven tracks from Snow on my iPod. There is one from Octane. Coming from a band that is either my first or second favorite, depending on the day, that's pretty damn sad.

I wish there was some way I could recommend Octane. I wish Neal Morse hadn't found Jesus. I wish a lot of things. Most notably, I wish that I hadn't wasted twenty bucks on this CD. For an album that's about life flashing before one's eyes, Octane is already pretty dead.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Inside/Out Records, and is used for informational purposes only.