The Meantime

Number four is available and you know you gotta have it!. Click the cover and breathe deep.

It's self titled so you know it's got to be sweet!

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REVIEWS

Album: The Meantime

Reviewed by: Mike DeGagne


Delightfully melding the intricacies of progressive rock with the familiarity of classic rock, Pennsylvania's The Meantime have plenty to offer for fans of both genres on their latest self-titled release. The fourteen tracks that are strewn across the album range in topics, from Superman to space to machinery, but all manage to tickle the fancy of those who own music by bands like Yes, Kansas, and Marillion.

The Meantime definitely harbor a neo-prog sound, but the modern feel to their progressive music contains enough old-school prog-rock fragments to recognize their influences within each song. The brain trust of the band is comprised of Tom Yacko and Chuck Gates, who are the masterminds behind the writing, singing, playing and arranging of the music. Other musicians have joined and contributed along the way (a la The Alan Parsons Project, if you will). While these individuals represent the flesh and blood of The Meantime's music, the band took advantage of the wonders of technology to garner the group's sophisticated yet pleasing sound. Computers, hard drives, and the like played a big part in the album's manufacturing, and was admittedly a challenging but entertaining endeavor.

The album opens with "The Life And Death of Superman," combining the hard edge of guitar and drums with the sincerity of the vocals. The song switches from a rockier thrust to a spotlight of upfront guitar and time changes as it plays out. The bass line, poignant and effective, keeps the song bouncing and steady at the same time, while the percussion gives the track a great bottom end that flows Rush-like as the song advances. Most of all, the pleasing string work that represents the slight change in pulse is what gives the song its real character and progressive flavor.

Following the opener, "The Intricacy Of Flight" gets a little more proggy, sparkling with Yes-style musical partitions and strong vocal work that soars above the music itself. With a little bit of a lighter feel, the song sparks images of cloud-basked skies and the wonderment of flying. The keyboard colorings in the background help to shape the tune's beautiful aura, while the weightlessness of the slight guitar jangle throughout nails home the song's intentions.

On "Breathing Helium", the band offers up one of the most radio-friendly cuts on the album. A slower offering, this tune highlights The Meantime's ability to craft a well-structured rock song with a catchy chorus and punchy guitar work. "Welcome To The Universe" follows in the same vein…almost. There's a definite Alan Parsons and Pink Floyd element to the track's mellow, day dreamy effervescence, with lyrics that take the listener on a bit of an interstellar trip.

The catchiest track, entitled "The Big Machine," utilizes a funkier bass line and sharp, edgy musical flow to grasp the listener's attention. Again, the slight changes in signatures give the song its character, along with the crisp drum work that kicks through the plane of the song's run. "Event Horizon," the last and longest track clocking in at just over six minutes, is a closer that mirrors some of Yes's work from the 1980's. The song is counterbalanced by its rock foundation musically, underneath the elevation of the vocals that propel the song forward.

The album's concept of flight, both in a literal and physical sense, is well maintained as the album unravels. Helium, the Sun, Superman, medication, and a mezzanine all contribute to The Meantime's main idea of being above the ground in one way or another. Prog lovers will be fascinated with the band's ability to inject each track with a common thread. The Meantime have established a fulfilling album that contains enough elements to please fans of many musical styles.


Album: The Meantime

Review by Mike Korn

The Meantime are now four albums into their career, so it's obvious they didn't fall off the turnip truck just yesterday. They are seasoned musicians who are in firm control of their instruments and well-versed in songcraft. This self-titled effort is their newest and by the time these fourteen tracks are done, any questions the listener might have about The Meantime will be answered.

The band itself can perhaps be described as more of a project, with Tom Yacko and Chuck Gates being the prime movers and songwriters. This talented duo then bring aboard a number of session players to help bring the songs to life.

Categorization seems to be a necessary evil in these days of a million micro-genres but the most honest word to describe The Meantime is the broadest: pure rock music. The material here runs the gamut from crunchy hard rock to acoustic balladry to expansive progressive rock, hitting many of the points in between. Variety is an important facet of this release and a big part of what makes it an interesting listen. It's not 50 minutes of grinding metal or folksy balladry, there's something for just about everyone. In fact, there might be a little bit too much of everything mixed into this bubbling cauldron.

Specific influences heard here include the 80's/90's period Rush, 70's prog like Yes and Gentle Giant, a touch of Beatle-esque melody and some of the acoustic rock like Phish and Dave Matthews Band. Along with just a sprinkle of Seattle grunge. Never does The Meantime sound like a bald knock-off of any of the above, which is definitely to their credit.

The record kicks off with the hard rocking, bass-driven "The Life and Death of Superman." Not quite metal, this still packs a hard punch, though the lead vocals are solidly melodic and on the poppy side. The singing is not going to blow you away, but the range and emotion are there. "The Intricacy of Flight" is a sprightly mix of rock and acoustic, while "Beyond The Pale" cools things down nicely with a very pretty ballad that has a folky appeal. Three songs in and we've already seen several different sides to the band. "My New Medication" follows with yet another aspect...a compact and crunchy hard rocker that throws in some brass to give things a funky vibe. This song is surely one of the standouts.

"Disappear" continues the funk feeling with a rubbery bass groove that could almost be out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' songbook. It's another fine track that merges hard rock, funk and pop into something smooth and creamy. Like a pendulum, the album swings towards something lighter with "Here," a ballad with vocals reminiscent of Yes' Jon Anderson and some soothing violin.

After "Here", the album makes a shift into proggier, stranger territory. Many of the song titles such as "Dying Scientists," "Welcome to the Universe" and "Event Horizon" suggest science fictional themes and I wonder if there is a concept bridging some of these tracks. Some of these later cuts seem to meander and lose their way, with "View From A Mezzanine," "Welcome To The Universe" and "Event Horizon" in particular rambling and not seeming as tightly written as the first half of the album. However, the musicianship remains top notch and there are still some gems to be uncovered, like the very spacey "Dying Scientists", where synths add a cosmic touch, and the Pink Floydish ballad "Breathing Helium."

At the end of the day, I can recommend this varied and ambitious collection of tunes to any fan of classic and progressive rock. Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

 

Album: The Meantime


Review by Reed Burnam


PA-based progressive rock outfit The Meantime's most recent album is big. From the outset of the opening track to the album's last notes, listeners are treated to a wealth of original songwriting, diverse stylistic influences, and spot-on musicianship courtesy (in the main) of multi-instrumentalists Tom Yacko and Chuck Gates. Together, the two perform most of the vocals, instruments, and arrangements, supported by a small cast of musicians filling out the roster. With The Meantime, the band has managed to assemble an ambitious and exciting fourth album for their growing back-catalogue.

With so many things going for it, it's hard to know just where to begin with The Meantime. Let's start with genre, a topic of discussion taken up by the band on their webpage. An excerpt from the band's online posting "What is Progressive Rock?" tells their story in the most pleasingly economical way: "We have endeavored to create music." And that's just what they have done. Structurally, though the songs retain familiar concepts such as verses and choruses, most of the album's tracks tend to run upwards of the four-minute mark, featuring multiple parts, hooks, and phrases. And then there's the loose topical concepts underlying all the album's content (liner notes on the band's website note a recurrence of certain themes coloring all the tracks on The Meantime), as well as an impressive eight-part, five-track suite dedicated to the life and death of the sun that occupies nearly half the album.

So is it progressive? Sure it is, but unlike occasional complaints against the genre, the myriad changes and shifts here don't detract from the underlying cohesion of the album, nor do they seem forced in order to fit a particular mold. Rather, The Meantime simply endeavors to create, well, music, and as such is all over the map with refreshingly honest originality and plenty of nods to multiple influences. And they are here in ample supply: on any given listen, one is able to discern the influence of classic prog staples such as Yes, Rush, and Kansas, but then there's also Brit popsters The Beatles and The Kinks, classic rock staples such as Pink Floyd and The Who, and even edgy post-punk melody-makers like XTC. Still, the band's sound is never lost in the forest for the trees, and though one is sure to hear all manner of influences informing Yacko and Gates' songwriting, their own unique sound always rings clearest.

Given the amount of things happening, The Meantime is a pleasantly intricate and rewards repeat listens. The album shifts tempos, pitch, and hue often enough that the listener is sure to be kept interested. Upbeat, borderline anxious rock pieces (see "Disappear" or album opener "The Life and Death of Superman") occupy space alongside spacey and slightly jazzy interludes ("Eight Minutes", "Welcome to the Universe") and anthemic, synth-driven, classically proggy arrangements ("Dying Scientists"). Longer, more involved numbers such as "The Intricacy of Flight" and "View from a Mezzanine" sit easily next to the breezy, 70's AM feel of "Here", or the hummable gem "Beyond the Pale." The songwriting and musicianship is top-notch across the entire album; there's nothing sloppy or second-rate here, from the instrumentation down to the vocal harmonies.

The one complaint that could be brought against The Meantime might be in its production value: a band with this much talent and this much to say might benefit from recording in a larger studio (the album was recorded at home). Not to suggest that The Meantime suffers from poor production value; far from it. However, there are points in the album when a "bigger" and more polished sound might have enhanced the more epic qualities of the content even further.

Lyrically, The Meantime is rich in introspective and often philosophical musings about life and reality. Some lines reflect an almost weary reflection on aging, like these lines from "Beyond the Pale": "Lately it would seem that I've been everywhere and everywhere I go; While I'm seeking out the differences, I've seen them all before". Others seem to suggest an apprehensive look into an unknown future, such as these lines from "My New Medication": "Can you recognize the sound of shuffling in the underground? Indications are the system's shutting down; Breathe in, breathe out, run like hell". According to the band's website, the album is a loose concept piece based on themes of "failing or fading light, stars and worlds", with "ideas of Gods and angels sprinkled in for good measure". These themes are captured in the last five songs on the album, dedicated to the life cycle of the sun.

In all, The Meantime is a great album, full of catchy riffs, soaring harmonies, and airtight musicianship. Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)