Life In Digital are duo John Beagley and Robin Schell, their music being reminiscent of Buggles’ era Yes with a modern twist and it’s easy to make comparisons at times as the vocals also sound very much like Jon Anderson, although this is no pale imitation.
The music on new album None of the Above is keyboard/synthesiser led and has a positive feel with no track overstaying its welcome. There are no extended epics, the longest song coming in at six minutes and thirty nine seconds, but the duo manage to squeeze in some healthy content on this third collaboration.
Long Train to Nowhere kicks us off with guitar sounds over rippling keyboards as a locomotive rhythm from the bass and drum patches carry us along, the scenery blurring as the journey gathers pace and we disappear down the tracks.
All change for Never Say Die with the initial keys sounding like those on a Don Henley tune, with a funkier beat, short synth solo and Trevor Rabin-like guitar strains steaming forward. Cancelled flies out of the station with an urgency in its movement, additional bass from guest Steve Babb producing further momentum to the upbeat feel with a short guitar tones solo around three and a half minutes in before hauling to a halt at the next stop along the way.
Further guests Todd Skeie and Denny Petroff of The New Toy meet us on the platform to add backing vocals on Self Contained, to pause a while as Robin treats us to the sound of lap steel guitar on this easier going track. Then it’s all aboard again for Concept & Plan, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Yes album, with a combination of their various musical guises over the decades. It has been said that imitation is the best form of flattery, and the LID proudly display their colours on their arms. Again we are treated to another quality guitar-type solo, on the album’s longest track, which arrives in time to catch the next tune.
No delays and all running on time as Parachute is deployed to slow the pace a little in a synthpop reimagining of ’80s era AOR, with yet another economic, entertaining guitar solo, before the engine rolls to a stop. Full steam ahead on track seven, as Under the Gun takes us “one step closer” to the final destination with the sing along a chorus. Drums feature a little more prominently on this tune, which pulls up abruptly. There’s a heavier feel to I Don’t Know as the instruments boil nicely, building pressure, pistons driving guitar sounds to increase the forward momentum of this penultimate tune.
Last leg of the journey and Underdog burns combustible musical material, creating the energy that carries us to our ultimate destination on the instrumental rails laid before us. This has been a very pleasant and cheerful ride.
The music, vocals, mixing and mastering are excellent throughout and I like this, although I found it took a few spins for the individual tracks to distinguish themselves as separate entities, which add up to an accomplished whole. Now they have, I find myself humming them to myself after the album has settled back in its metaphorical engine shed, better known as the CD case. The short bursts of guitar sounds on a number of the tracks expand the tunes, ensuring whilst not Prog length epics, they satisfy our appetites.
Also, can I give an admirable mention for the ‘Arena’ like album cover, over the front and rear of the sleeve, along with the dreamy inner picture reminiscent of a stripped-back interior from an old railway carriage. I’m quite happy to ride this through again and invite you to take a seat, relax in first class and join me to appreciate the journey.
01. Long Train to Nowhere (5:02)
02. Never Say Die (5:09)
03. Cancelled (4:34)
04. Self Contained (5:39)
05. Concept & Plan (5:32)
06. Parachute (6:39)
07. Under the Gun (4:51)
08. I Don’t Know (5:20)
09. Underdog (5:10)
Total Time – 47:56
John Beagley – Synthesisers, Backing Vocals, Mixing, Mastering
Robin Schell – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Lap Steel Guitar
Steve Babb – Bass
Todd Skeie – Backing Vocals
Denny Petroff – Backing Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th October 2023