Review Summary: An effective fusion of 70s-style prog and pop-rock easily contests some quite different beginnings...
It Bites were a British pop-rock band best known for their questionable 80s hit single Calling All the Heroes
that disbanded in 1990.
However, in 2006, the members reformed, replacing their lead vocalist and guitarist with John Mitchell of Arena
and going Genesis
with the lack of a bassist, instead recording all parts between them. The resulting album is quite frankly, impressive. The band has managed to combine their old catchy choruses and vocal harmonies with a healthy injection of screaming 70s-style progressive rock solos, keyboards and song structures.
The first song, Oh My God
is one of the album's best, centred around a vocal harmony of a repeated "I got your words" and after its second chorus the "prog section" kicks in with one of Mitchell's signature solos and John Beck's eerie keys - fans of Spock's Beard
will be completely at home.
Other strong tracks include Playground
, filled with longing reminiscence of childhood and excellent interplay between the Johns' instruments, Memory of Water
's thumping drums and memorable hooks and For Safekeeping
, a much slower piano-led song than its peers that adds some nice variation to the album. The title track also brings in interesting Gailic elements with an atmospheric flute solo.
The shortest song is 4:41, so this is not to be confused with uninspired mainstream pop-rock, though there are tracks that it would not be a surprise to hear on your local radio station like Fahrenheit
and Great Disasters
which have every quality to appeal to the masses while retaining the progressive nature for those that have actual music taste, which is what makes this album so interesting.
There are however weaker tracks that bring the quality down, notably Lights
which is where the band finally fails, the song feeling over-long and repetitive, unsure whether to be a catchy radio-friendly or throwback progressive tune. The Wind That Shakes The Barley
is not bad but occasionally feels as if it is 8 minutes long simply for the sake of being 8 minutes long and the European bonus track When I Fall
is not to be missed by anyone who picks up a standard copy of the album...
The standout track of the album is the final, epic 14 minute This Is England
, where It Bites go full-on Dream Theater
with ever-shifting riffs and brilliant, screeching keyboard work. The song appears to invent an alternate-reality Thatcher-esque fascist England where Mitchell sings of oppression and a commanding voice arrests the viewer for "interfering in the worst possible way". The song's final 4 minutes depict a mother dying in childbirth somehow bringing the oppressed citizens to overpower their government and free us from their clutches, it kinda makes you wish The Tall Ships
had been a concept album, but though it is not, I'm certainly aboard.