The Tangent is one of my favourite progressive rock groups, or, in this case, supergroup. Admittedly, their delivery is far from being consistent, and ranges from the tremendous Not as Good as the Book (2008) and Le sacre du travail (2013) to the very lacklustre Comm (2011) and A Spark in the Aether (2015). So, it’s always a case of cautious excitement whenever Andy Tillison’s Canterbury-inspired prog rock outfit announces something new. Here comes ‘A Few Steps down the Wrong Road’, a 19-minute epic that was released in August of last year, in anticipation of the band’s upcoming album, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery.
The divisive times that we go through, all around the world, prove to be an inexhaustible well of inspiration for musicians and artists at large. Indeed, following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, in what has been known as the Brexit movement, Andy’s spark of teenage revolt has been brought back to life. Therefore, ‘A Few Steps down the Wrong Road’ is a heavily political piece. Like it or not – and whether your views align or oppose those expressed in the song -, we’re here for the music first and foremost, and thus I won’t be discussing the lyrical content of the piece, except perhaps for its writing qualities.
The song, as a whole and after a few complete plays, is far from impressive… Most of it – or, at least, most of what I remember of it – consists of midtempo passages with spoken word exposition. Under this hides a very minimalistic instrumentation that is hardly interesting or entertaining, for a progressive music habitué. The second most memorable bouts are of slow and epic parts, supposed to inspire awe, but made me sigh instead. There are, however, more energetic moments, which, sadly, put aside the progressive label in lieu of square hard rock.
The instrumentation found therein is of high quality. Tillison takes care of playing his own composition on keyboards, drums, and voice, while Luke Machin takes the guitar parts, Theo Travis the saxophone, flute, and theremin, and Jonas Reingold takes care of the bass guitar. There are also two guest singers, on that track: Boff Whalley and Marie-Eve de Gaultier. Of course, musicians can only improve a composition so much; the essence of a song is written down before being played and recorded onto disk.
The lyrics – let’s put aside their meaning – are barely noteworthy themselves. Instead of using figures of speech to enhance the text and its message, most of it is blatant and blunt, just like a text written out of teenage anger; what a coincidence. Given, the narrator’s point of view is opposed to the writer’s, which creates some sense of ambiguity that is most welcome in this arid scribble. Moreover, in-between the poetic lyrics are prosaic lines – the aforementioned exposition -, which relates some events quite coldly.
In conclusion, The Tangent‘s new political progressive rock track, ‘A Few Steps down the Wrong Road’, is disappointing. All seems to point out, for now, to The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery to be another forgettable album. That’s more than saddening considering the known potential of the band.
You can ‘pre-pre-order’ the album here, but I would strongly recommend you wait and see if the other songs are capable of redeeming this one. In the meantime, you really should try out their albums I fully endorse: Not as Good as the Book, Le sacre du travail, and, to a slightly lesser degree, Down and out in Paris and London.