'The Gethsemane Option' is the first album on the Metropolis label for The Legendary Pink Dots, but incredibly their 40th overall.
The first thing that has always struck me about this band is the myriad of adjectives used to describe their style. An incomplete list includes industrial, goth rock, neo-psychedelia, ambient music, electronic music, tape music, psych folk, synth-pop, post-punk, progressive, jazz, noise, pop, experimental, avant-garde.
Usually when so many labels are put on one band I assume that either they are totally original, or keep changing their sound. Along with the description of this album as being an exploration in textual ambience and rock experimentation I was looking forward to seeing what this one sounded like.
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So there I was, basically expecting something along the lines of Steve Hackett's 'Voyage Of The Acolyte'. After the first hearing I was a bit baffled, as there was nothing notable about what I had heard so I tried again on decent headphones. This was certainly necessary in order to pick up on what was really going on. Once I had done this I felt adding a few more adjectives to the list – post-modern, dystopian and nothing like Steve Hackett.
'The Gethsemane Option' is about an hour long and contains seven tracks, some of which have great titles - 'The Garden Of Ealing' and 'Esher Everywhere' for example. The sound isn't really that varied overall. It's quite slow throughout and Edward Ka-Spel's vocals keep the same tone with not that much rhythmic variation.
The industrial aspect is most evident on 'Grey Scale', although it is quite lite. Not sure what industry was inspirational here, but it certainly wasn't British Steel. Maybe the factory from the film Toys, as the rest of the album hints at Magritte-style surrealism.
'A Stretch In Time' sees the band in full 80s goth rock mode, the kind of music you might expect to hear soundtracked over images of the Berlin Wall. The repeated final vocal motif has a sway to it and contained many instrumental layers beneath it, and the vibe here brought back memories of Joy Division and other New Wave bands. Definitely the best track on the album.
The album finishes with 'One More Dimension', which even allowing for all the subtleties and pulses going on in the mix, wasn't actually true for me. I stayed truly in the three dimensions around me. Or is it four? Anyway, I can truthfully say that I have felt more spaced that one time when I added too much clary sage to my bath oil.
There is much to be admired in this album, it just didn't do it for me. Too experimental to be accessible? Or an experiment that needs to go back to the drawing board for refinement? I can't really say, but Ka-Spel and The Legendary Pink Dots are to be commended for following their own path and continuing to make albums on their own terms – that's rock and roll.
A Star Is Born
The Garden Of Ealing
A Stretch In Time
One More Dimension
Edward Ka-Spel – vocals, keyboards, composer
Phil Knight (The Silverman) – keyboards, electronics
Erik Drost – guitars
Raymond Stegg - sound engineer.