Thinking Plague is a state-of-the-art American rock band with musical affinities to the Rock-in-Opposition movement. While it would be easy to imitate Henry Cow (or whoever) and boast a great accomplishment in profundity, Thinking Plague takes the high road and broadens the RIO ethic with groundbreaking innovations and eccentric songwriting.
On _Early Plague Years_, Bob Drake has taken the bands first two albums, 1984's _...A Thinking Plague_ and 1986's _Moonsongs_, remastered them completely and done some snipping to a few admittedly effusive sections in order to fit it all on one CD (any editing here is unfortunate but a fair tradeoff). Thanks to Drake, these albums sound great.
Thinking Plague, to most people, is abrasive, scary, and unmeleodic. I've heard the "nails on a chalkboard" description thrown around a lot. This is mainly attributable to their penchant for atonality, which is a common feature in their music along with long, complex songs and convoluted metrical changes. Personally I find Thinking Plague extremely melodic, catchy, energetic, and fun to listen to. Songs like "Warheads" -- an ominous composition with harsh, stark drums, mantra-like vocals, and angular, dissonant melodies (the final dirge is one of the most apocalyptic of things) -- and "Etude for Combo" -- an instrumental that was recorded live in the studio, and it like King Crimson possessed by evil spirits -- are definitive Plague songs. The two 15-minute epics, "Moonsongs" and "Thorns of Blue and Red / the War", are outstanding, multisectioned journeys through the dark, haggard forests around a sunny, happy prog town, full of great parts, especially the huge percussion jams in "Moonsongs". Actually one of my favorite parts in any Thinking Plague song is in "Moonsongs": the killer section where they play fast, repetitive melodic fragments of Susanne Lewis' sampled voice (it's MIND-WARPING), all the while the heavy bass and drums crash and pound with growing intensity. The lyrics of "Thorns of Blue..." are rather disturbing, as they were taken from a poetry book in the garbage behind a hospice. They have a very dark, imminent feel that goes well with TP's music. HOI. "How to Clean Squid" is insane discourse on, well, how to clean squid (lyrics taken from a cookbook), with a heavy rhythmic pulse and wacky vocals from Sharon Bradford. "Four Men in the Rain" sounds like a drunken string quartet on a submarine and "Collarless Fog that one day soon" is a strange, minimalist piece.
There is a close relationship between Thinking Plague, the 5uu's, and U Totem in both the members involved and the compositional traits of each. Each band is amazing and important, proving that American RIO-school bands are doing teh prog thing better than anyone right now. Explore all these artists and prepare to have your world expanded a thousandfold. If you're looking for a good place to dive right into these murky waters, _Early Plague Years_ is hard to beat. You'd have to be primordial ooze to not think this is brilliant.Official site
1. Warheads (8:03)
2. Etude for Combo (6:59)
3. Collarless Fog that one day soon (3:20)
4. Inside Out (4:12)
5. Moonsongs (original '86 Mix) (15:23)
"...A Thinking Plague": 39:49
6. I Do Not Live (5:02)
7. Possessed (8:17)
8. How to Clean Squid (5:01)
9. a light is on and name the world (1:28)
10. The Taste that Lingers On (2:06)
11. For Men in the Rain (2:29)
12. Thorns of Blue and Red / the War (15:26)
Total Time: 77:46
- Bob Drake / bass guitar, drums percussion, keyboards, voice
- Mark Fuller / drums, timbales, simmons drums
- Eric Moon / keyboards
- Mike Johnson / guitars, drums, percussion voice
- Susanne Lewis / voice
- Mark McCoin / drums, percussion, voice, cheap sampler
- Fred Hess / alto sax
- Glenn Nita / soprano sax
"...A Thinling Plague":
- Sharon Bradford / voice, casio mini synth, "drake noise box"
- Bob Drake / bass guitar, drums percussion, guitar, keyboards, voice
- Harry Fleishman / piano, organ,voice
- Mark Fuller / drums, simmons drums
- Mike Johnson / guitars, synths, piano, voice
- Mark Bradford / voice
Links in comments. Enjoy!