Review Summary: A resounding triumph of substance over style.
Australia seems to be an incredibly fertile breeding ground for modern progressive rock acts. While the band currently boasts prog-rock auteur Shaun Holton (aka Projected Twin) as one of its members and presently that seems to be its only claim to fame, if the quality of the material on their debut EP is anything to go by, this won’t be the case for long. The EP’s title seems to be extremely prescient (especially if you read a double meaning into it), because one of the biggest strengths of the band seems to be the diversity of styles and influences it draws upon to inform its sound. However, unlike say, Twelve Foot Ninja, the stylistic eclecticism on the album is far from jarring. Rather it is a welcome quirk which provides the band avenues to develop its core sound and keep the songs from sounding homogenous. The end result is that every song on the EP is a unique entity that sounds very noticeably different from every other song, but retains the band’s essential flavor. As simple as this concept may sound, it is much easier to envision than execute.
For instance, the album opener, Two Headed Dog
is a fairly conventional modern prog song that draws heavily from grunge influences with its use of loud-soft dynamics that build to fabulously cathartic choruses, and polyphonic vocal melodies. However, the follow up, Crackd
, takes a stylistic left turn into indie rock territory with its simple palm muted riffs and stuttering vocal lines. Some of the indie rock aesthetic is retained on the title track but with jazz and metal influences added to the mix before the band takes another left turn, this time towards Opeth-ville, on Lunchbox Monster
. Finally, the band circles back to a more conventional progressive rock sound and ends proceedings on a haunting Pink Floyd by way of Porcupine Tree note with Islands
However, as mentioned earlier, despite these stylistic shifts, the band never sounds like it lacks a corporeal identity. Vocalist/guitarist Cat Johns has a slightly colourless alto voice, but manages to infuse each song with an ethereally melodic and haunting air that never gets boring or repetitive. Simply put, she sounds like a female Steven Wilson; not extremely impressive from a technical standpoint, but with a fine ear for melody. Actually, that’s a pretty apt description for the entire band. Despite this being a progressive rock record through and through, there is little that is technically impressive. However, guitarist Chris Lau and drummer Luke Whelan ably support Cat Johns while proving themselves to be fine songwriters and composers in their own right and constantly find subtle and seamless ways to make the songs ‘progress’. Despite the eclecticism available, the band never loses sight of the song. Thus despite the varied styles found on the album, So Much For Style
proves itself to be a resounding triumph of substance over style.