When broken down to its core elements, this sophomore effort by North Carolina based Fifth Species offers it all – crooked time signatures, distorted clavichord stabs, jumpy bass lines accompanied by an enticing mix of male and female harmonies that often stand in contrast to original and humorous melodies: are we then in Prog-Paradise?
When assembling all these usual ingredients one runs the risk of painting by numbers – a reality not rarely encountered in the realm of progressive rock; especially the kind that strives to incorporate the organic ’70s sound.
I’m glad to be able to sound the all-clear and say that this isn’t the case with Life in the Punch Line. While the Gentle Giant influence is unambiguous, the trio, comprised of Jeremy Reiser, Kristen Stevenson and Robert Reiser, nevertheless manages to present an original offering that is filled with excitingly syncopated melodies and original compositions that tend to place the harmonies between all three singers and multi instrumentalists at their very centre. The entire venture is embedded in a highly organic sound, which further adds to the dynamic range of the already thrilling production.
Quirky guitar lines alternating with staccato clavichord patterns create the direct connection to the most successful hat tricks by English Giant-brothers Schulman, straight from the opening Presage. The subsequent titles follow down the same path, constantly alluding to landmarks achieved in the past, while simultaneously taking on a uniquely melodious approach which settles in-between the abstract Canterbury cynicism and a more tame and friendly Indi-Rock feel.
Even though no song of epic proportion in length found its way onto this album, the, on average, 6-minute runs do show a tendency to overstay their welcome at times. Most compositions are constructed in a very linear verse-chorus format with an instrumental middle section that doesn’t harmonically differ from the verses – thus creating an air of redundancy. This wouldn’t stick out as a problem if poignant solos or intriguing interplay were introduced, but unfortunately the solos are either buried in the mix or fail to introduce new melodic ideas.
A minor flaw though, that is drowned by the individual as well as collective performances on guitar, keyboard and vocals.
Life in The Punch Line is not only a promising starting point for this group but an already accomplished offering that deserves much attention.
01. Presage (6:18)
02. Open (6:08)
03. Lines (5:53)
04. Second Home (6:18)
05. Blind Hope (6:12)
06. City Apart (5:47)
07. Disparity (4:50)
08. Elegy (3:12)
Total Time – 44:38
Jeremy Reiser – Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Drums, Glockenspiel, Vocals
Kristen Stevenson – Electric & Acoustic Bass, Clarinet, Vocals
Robert Reiser – Electric & Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 25th May 2018