Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Tea Club - General Winter's Secret Museum

Another trawl through my pile of unreviewed CDs reminded me that General Winter's Secret Museum by The Tea Club has been played so much that it has got promoted to the "heavy rotate" pile, and as such I've neglected to sit down and shower it with a deluge of adjectives, for which omission I can only apologise to the band. Listen to it here, and read on...

Formed in Deptford, New Jersey in 2003 by brothers Dan and Patrick McGowan, the band had released a number of EPs (which I must check out) prior to this, their first album proper in 2008. It is indeed quite amazing that The Tea Club number only three members, Patrick on guitars, bass and vocals, Dan on guitars and vocals, and drummer Kyle Minnick, for the expansive sound on the album would indicate a far larger ensemble.

As they are a trio with progressive inclinations, inevitable comparisons are to be made with prog behemoths Rush and modern pop-proggers Muse. There are snatches of the influence of both those bands for sure, but they also have a strong current of US punk and new wave running through them, enhanced by producer Tim "Rumblefish" Gilles who has worked with all sorts of noiseniks, from Sepultura to Rage Against The Machine. Amongst the punky influences are Husker Dü and indeed all things Bob Mould, and the prog credentials are upped with odd time signatures and tunings and an obvious helping of King Crimson and The Mars Volta. In fact on my current favourite track The Clincher all this and more gets thrown into the mincer...;).

The songwriting is of the highest calibre and the intent of the band is shown in the opener Werewolves, a tale of dissatisfaction which stomps over the neatly manicured lawns of suburbia with the gay abandon of a hormone crazed youth fuelled by too many food additives, before seeking redemption in a becalmed middle section replete with gorgeous harmonies and a soaring burst of glissando guitar.

A feature of the band are the dual lead vocals and close harmonies of Dan and Patrick which lend the vocals a higher level of intensity than that which one voice would be able to achieve. On Will'O'The Wisp the harmonies are perfect for the slower-paced alt-rock balladry served up. On songs like these I am put in mind of an edgier Pineapple Thief, and fans of that band and of any of the other numerous influences mentioned should love this album. It is a sum of its parts rather than an attempt to replicate the sounds of 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago come to that. The Tea Club have fashioned a piece of music that I have not grown tired of despite repeated plays and I would imagine that I'll still be giving it a spin or two for many years to come.

If you've got the streaming link going and you've read this far, you really ought to buy it, doncha think?

For those of you lucky enough to live in North West USA the band are playing a few dates in May with Beardfish. I'd love to see them, and you should if you can!

2.Cool Smack
3.Big Al
4.Castle Builder
5.Purple Chukz
6.The Clincher
7.Will O The Wisp
8.The Moon
9.Ice Clock

Line up:
Like I said! 

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