People With Purpose

The Wizards of Twiddly
Fracture for Pleasure

Reviewed by Richard Lewis

Dexterously played, lyrically inventive, frequently bonkers LP from Liverpool based neo-prog rockers

With the band name a deliberate nod towards 1970s rock, The Wizards of Twiddly occupy the pre-punk period of the decade when King Crimson, Peter Gabriel era Genesis and Jethro Tull were the doyens of what used to be called ‘underground’ rock.

Recorded over two years, featuring two-fifths of the wondrous Emily & The Faves, Andy’s Delamere and Frizell, in their line up, the complexity of the band’s arrangements doesn’t obscure their way with a tune.

The pastoral whimsy of early 1970s prog is replicated here, the band’s material couldn’t be from anywhere else but England. Simon James and Andy Frizell’s vocals shore up a treasured influence, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. A band largely ignored in the present day, albums such as The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway combined musical adventure, avant garde song structures and vitally, tunes to frequently excellent effect.

Opening with the title track, a curtain-raising instrumental, the first of several on the LP, ‘Just Above Your Thing’ following next with different production could pass for full on metal, its bludgeoning riff offset by vaguely discordant horns

‘Sounds of Success’ evokes the mellower moments of Dark Side-era Floyd, eschewing the twisting melody lines found elsewhere. Elsewhere, ‘Cardboard Banjo’ demonstrates the band’s ability to flit between various genres, veering away from its central riff into parping easy listening.

The jarring melodies of ‘Big, Bigger, Bigot’ recalls early King Crimson, a band who sailed closer to the cutting edge than many of their contemporaries. ‘Anti-Tank Tank’ and ‘Bless This Tank’ meanwhile secure the accolade of being almost certainly the only occasion when two songs with the word ‘tank’ in the title have featured on the same LP.

Switching styles, the politically charged ‘Hooverman’ based around a loping riff sung by guest vocalist Jimmy Carl Black starts out as a Ian Dury-esque polemic before segueing into what could be a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Additional points for use of the word ‘procrastinator’ in popular song as well.

‘Interlude’ recalls R.E.M.s habit of including an instrumental mid way through their eighties albums, while vocal-free skronking-horn led piece Anti-Tank Tank’, evokes images of a drunken rampage on a unicycle.

‘Ping Pong Head’ (Chorus: ‘I’ve got a ping pong head/I’ve got a ping pong head’ ad infinitum) while lyrically impenetrable, dimly suggests early Black Sabbath backed with by Martin Smith’s sleazy horn section.

Concluding with the vaguely unsettling ‘Burned Alive’, the album finishes on a restful note, save for a short reprise as a hidden track.

Featuring blazing axe histrionics from Carl Bowery, the fluid playing of the five piece plus assorted guests reinforces the stereotype that prog bands had the greatest technical mastery of the rock genre.

Where many prog bands are burdened with the po-faced need to take their art very seriously, the present group have a playfulness that lifts them above this. Lyrics such as ‘Fame and fortune/flatulence pays/So applauded/Blow you away/Beautiful hot anthems to share’, suggests their music isn’t delivered with life or death intensity.

One of the most waywardly entertaining, intriguing albums to have come out of Liverpool this year.

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