I’m a progressive music fan; progressive rock is awesome, progressive metal is excellent. I’ll even dabble in the avant-garde when the mood should take me. But I don’t think I’ve ever experienced progressive pop. Or have I? Back in 1976 the band KLAATU released a song called Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, it reached number 45 on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart and then was picked up by a little-known act the following year who called themselves THE CARPENTERS. It was released on the same single as a song literally no-one has heard of called Can’t Smile Without You. One minor thing to note was that the KLAATU written track was the A-Side, which isn’t especially relevant but it is interesting.
The point of that preamble was that I have in fact heard progressive pop before. As serendipity would have it, it was by the same artist I review today, Terry Draper. Sunset On Mars is the sixteenth solo album he has released since 1997, and features Bill Nadeau on guitars and Dana Countryman, Brenda Webb and Ray Paul on backing vocals.
The album opens with Sunset on Mars that sets the scene by having a guitar emulate the sound of birds creating this landscape. This has you stood on a cliff looking out to sea as the sun fades below the horizon while the sky itself transforms into odd hues and pigments. The vocals have an almost glassy quality to them coming out in this dreamlike tone, these slide above the instrumentation in an alienesque fashion. The guitars are reintroduced periodically to add fills and to highlight key moments but don’t seem to take to the forefront at any point.
The Girl Next Door is a teenage crush condensed into two minutes and fifty-one seconds. The album as a whole is imbued with this day dream like quality and this is no different. The realisation of the singer’s feelings coupled with imagining their prospective paramore is the most perfect being in the world. It is a feeling that I’m sure a lot of people will relate to and will have some nice feelings brought back.
On some level, you could tell me that this entire album had a concept that was snapshots from a child’s life. Whilst that’s probably not the case, it’s a feeling that’s reasonably hard to shake when there is a song called The Children’s March. This starts off in the most innocent way almost sounding like an innocent music box before building up to this darker, ominous and pulsating rhythm that just goes ever onward. Or at least, it does until that darkness is stripped away leaving a much lighter sound.
I think I like this album and yet I’m not overly sure why I do. Draper lists his influences as THE MOODY BLUES, KING CRIMSON and PINK FLOYD and I can certainly see elements of all of them in his work. I don’t think this is music for simply just enjoying or to put it in terms of PINK FLOYD this is not Wish You Were Here but rather A Saucerful of Secrets. So, you likely won’t find it being played on your local radio station but it will find a home with those that are fond of such things.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Sunset On Mars is out now.
Find Terry Draper on his official website.