There’s a reason why very few people look back fondly on Yes‘ 90’s period.
As I have a few hours to kill on a flight, I’ve taken it upon myself to drudge through the post-Drama depression so you don’t have to – I’m a modern day saint, I know, you’re welcome. You may think I revel in tearing albums apart, but I honestly approached Yes‘ seventeenth album, Open Your Eyes, with a glimpse of optimism and thought to myself: “It can’t be as bad as everyone says it is. It can’t be as bad as Heaven & Earth”.
I was wrong.
Open Your Eyes would be the album that regresses the classic progressive rock group’s success back to square one – that is, if it wasn’t so uncharacteristic of Yes and prog in general to the point of utter alienation. The only recognizable feature in Open Your Eyes is vocalist Jon Anderson, who I feel plays the weakest part in the record; the rest of the band, especially Steve Howe, seem to be without their usual flair. However, even as a pop rock record, it’s not very inticing.
The opening tracks, ‘New State of Mind’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’, are pleasant enough with some solid instrumentation and a few surprisingly unpredictable progressions. However, it’s immediate from the off that the vocals are hideously overproduced. They’re thrust in your face arrogantly with a sickeningly twee front; much like the kid sat in front of me on the plane who kept rocking in his seat for attention. Thanks, kid.
These two tracks provide good schmoozy pop rock even if there are no signs of prog in sight. But after each successive track, it becomes clear that they have similar repetitive, chorus-heavy structures and progressively unengaging songwriting. With most tracks circling the 5 minute mark, which is relatively brief for Yes, they feel excruciatingly long despite the only notable feature is Jon Anderson barking cliché poptimistic imagery and motivational messages at us. At worst it’s irritating, but most of the time it’s inoffensive – either way there’s not the same charm that Going for the One or 90125 had.
Maybe it’s a degree of oxygen deprivation, but the tracks ‘Fortune Seller’ and ‘Man in the Moon’ are abysmal to the point of absurdity that I actually enjoy them – only ironically though, of course. ‘Fortune Seller’s chorus feels like the embarrassing younger brother of the latter half of ‘Siberian Khatru’ with none of the subtlety. The vocal effects here are especially noticeable in their redundancy and reductive influence on the vocals, which is impressive because Jon Anderson’s delivery gets increasingly grating over time even without the effects. ‘Man in the Moon’s vocals are at least humourously dire and its instrumentation is at least interesting with some dramatic Bond-esque strings. The tracks ‘Wonderlove’ and ‘Love Shine’ spur a similar reaction with their lowest-denominator lyrics whilst everything else, including a third of the tracklist, is utterly forgettable – probably for the better, really.
And so we close on the ’24’ minute track ‘The Solution’, which is a total cop out as the song is only 5 minutes long. The ambient outro that followed would’ve been an acceptable, albeit lazy, closer if it wasn’t for the utterly pointless, obnoxious and embarrassing vocal reprisals. What in God’s name were they thinking ending the album like this? Is it meant to be endearing? Is it meant to be deep or clever? Is Yes just giving us a huge middle finger? Does it make me want to jump out of this plane? (In a word: yes). Slapping 19 minutes of looping, generic nature ambience on the end of Open Your Eyes is rivalled only by the album art, or lack thereof, in its sheer laziness.
Since Yes obviously couldn’t be arsed to finish their album properly, I’m not going to finish this review properly either. Open Your Eyes is not the worst album ever, but it’s average at its best, insulting at its worst and a piss-poor excuse of an album from the band that made Close to the Edge. I can only really recommend Open Your Eyes to Yes completists and the masochistic, because there’s not a whole lot commendable about it.