Dateline: March 2006
Review: The Syn - Syndestructible
Reviewed by: Joshua Turner
The Syn - Syndestructible
Label: Umbrello Records
Cat. No.: UMBRCD004
Total Time: 52:36
Like a Phoenix rising, The Syn comes out of nowhere and competes at full strength. For hockey fans, this might be debatable, but for progressive rock fans and even those of pro wrestling, this is a matter that's stone cold serious. As if they found the fountain of youth, their reincarnation makes Rip Van Winkle look like a weary old man. While their odometer shows mileage, they play with vehemence and vigor. Yes might have all the accolades, but this obscure band comes alive from the ashes.
I was unaware of their connections, let alone their existence, until I saw them live. In other words, they were literally in my backyard before I was ever exposed to their music. When I learned that Squire was reforming an old band, I immediately queried their tour schedule. It was at this time I found they were playing at a not-too-distant venue in the not-too-distant future. On a whim, I hit the road and at the spur-of-the-moment was in their presence front and center. Then, when I finally got around to spinning their disc, I was enlightened further. They were loud and clear on stage, but in the studio, they were every bit as good or better.
Without taking too much away from their outstanding performance, I must point out that the album is tight in its very own way. It's hard to say with all the good material out there. Even if it's not in mine, this deserves to be at the apex of many people's top ten list. Altogether, it's as mighty as the Titanic, but the ship that sets sail in their sophomore outing is more or less unsinkable.
Here's what surfaces in this incredibly vast, impressive, and virtually indestructible ocean liner called Syndestructible:
The vessel departs from the docks in "Breaking Down Walls" without much ado about anything. You'll hardly notice the waves crashing down upon its sides. This is as blessed and divine as Sid's Boy Choir from Spock's Beard. It's so swift and wispy; you'll be light-headed from its sudden drop in pressure. Then, just like that, you're onto the next track.
Before you know it, we're drifting into open sea and the song, "Some Time, Some Way" is underway. This part embodies Bob Dylan's nonchalant singing with instrumentals as melodic as The Flower Kings. Much to their chagrin, they've culled the concerns of a leak in the hull.
They return us to shore in "Reach Outro," which in case you missed it, is a clever play on words. Listening to the song, you'll come to realize the pun was purposely intended.
Each wedge in this multi-tiered introduction goes together like the moist and sticky slivers ensconced within a slab of Spumoni. The first works aptly as an intro while the third effectively abates into The Outer Limits of the outro. This intelligently aligned alliance could have easily been one track, one song, one vision. Nevertheless, the meaty middle is packed with high-quality jerky and that's where you'll find the most nourishment. Either way, the ends justify the means. There are no stodgy byproducts acting as filler. This is as crunchy and nutritious as an organic apple. The surgeon will not only stay away, but any sort of tampering is strictly forbidden. As a result, this progressive rock is extremely palatable and passed without pain. Some of the more pensive parts are Kaipa or Yes. Yet, the more folksy elements are inspired by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. With followers always begging for more, right upfront, they give their fans a treat they're sure to devour.
Early on, you know this band is for real. Nonetheless, it keeps chugging along.
With Squire on the marquee, they could have easily sold tickets and merchandise with a handshake and a smile. Instead, they use their experience and skill to skipper another watertight cluster.
"Cathedral Of Love" features some the most powerful passages you could find today in music. It's obvious they didn't just put their best food forward and then fall back on their haunches. It's so sweet and sensitive, it tickles the spine. I hear a potent combination between two opposite, but equally important influences. That would be none other than Paul McCartney and The Flower Kings. Since its rhythms are distinct, delicate, and discrete, it sounds unusually good on headphones. It's as if they took "Hey Jude" and "Go West Judah" and sent them across the Atlantic to "My New World."
To coincide with this comparison, Squire's bass in the breakout section reminds me of Jonas Reingold. You may feel it's sacrilegious to make such an association. If it's any consolation, I hold Jonas in the highest regard and feel he has already earned his place in the queue of those with legendary status. In my opinion, to compare the superstar to this young pup is a true complement to both the bassists.
And, you know what; it only gets better from here…
While it seems we are nearing the end, the previous song starts a chain reaction. The next couple events broach the borders of the epic perimeter.
"City Of Dreams" has a modern flair, but it awakens the Yes' classics in a roundabout way. The switch-ups, stops, change of direction, and digression, while all unexpected, are quite amazing. This incredible cut will open your eyes, ears, heart, and mouth. Try not to sing-along or play with invisible sticks in the air. While the dreamer's dream, only those who are alert and conscious can experience the spirit and elation tucked deftly within its folds. In other words, pay attention while it's playing. This song combines Tom Brislin's creative keyboards with Toy Matinee's elegant background arrangements. There's a degree of Spock's Beard urbane "Thoughts" applied, but this time, it reads mostly from Revelations. Using his own indomitable and identifiable style, Squire patently plays the bass as a lead instrument. It's awesome how he walks these wonderfully wistful lines. To sum it up, this song is ingenious and stunning and an ace among a suite of highlights.
The next on the hit list is "Golden Age." This maudlin marvel pays homage to their sixties heritage both lyrical and instrumentally. As much as we like the symphonic, too much could be overly predictable or mundane. They agree and take us on this influential tangent in time. In a way, it's out of place, but these new digs will do. In the mix, I hear what sounds like a cow bell and a banjo. It's more like Sheryl Crowe's Tuesday Night Club than anything in the earlier proceedings. They lose their scepter, but gain a throne. They carry on the tradition of Tom Petty and The Rolling Stones. This is the closest they get to the mainstream. By exiling to the safety of the empire, they have abandoned the stronghold, but their choice is so simple even a child could understand. By going commercial, they've expanded the crusade to meet a wider audience. Hopefully, the progressive brethren won't send them to Valhalla. It's so good, all should be forgiven. In celebration, bells ring and angels sing. Even a Buddha Boy is spotted shouting out with glee.
At this stage, they could have packed it in and ran off with the spoils. Instead, they indulge us with more priceless treasure.
In "The Promise," the finest alloys are guaranteed to you. Back to the days of future passed, we encounter Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, and The Who. This is my kind of song, because it's in no hurry to finish. On the other hand, it conveys the kind of insanity, clout, and fortitude one would frequently find in Izz and IQ. The quarterback drops back in the pocket and ends the amusement with a miracle of a Hail Mary pass. The music they use to draw the opposition offside is as devious as the theme from A Clockwork Orange. Also, in this sequence, the drums and keyboards bestowed by the Stacey brothers shuffle similar to how Hans Lundin and Morgen Agren did on Kaipa's Notes From The Past. After a successful album, it would be ambitious to one-up the success of their earlier submissions. Even so, they end with this large-scale and elaborate effort. As aforementioned in the abstract, each song has earned their place in the polls. What they accomplish in the last track is convincing enough to move them up in the rankings. You'll be forsaken, dare I say a fool, if you sign out early and miss it. As promised, stand and deliver and take this blissful beating like a real fan (note the careful use of a gender-neutral noun.:)).
They cover all the bases in terms of songwriting, melodies, execution, and singing. They provide ecstasy for our ears and even intrigue to our eyes. While they do not outfit the album with one of Roger Dean's imaginative drawings, they still choose attractive artwork to encase it. Mark Brown is responsible for the graphics and shape in the design. His creation comes together in an interesting and abstract way. Within the liner notes, a very old photo of Squire and Nardelli is also to be found. While the music is exceptional, this silly snapshot alone is worth the price of admission.
The Syn proves they still have that subtle spark. After a rotation and a balance, they're as good as new. Even if they've been around the block a few times, there is quite a bit of tread left on their tires. If you unwisely discount the deal, you may not know what you're missing. Drive this off the lot today and just avoid the whole ordeal.
More about Syndestructible:
Track Listing: Breaking Down Walls (0:51) / Some Time, Some Way (7:56) / Reach Outro (3:38) / Cathedral Of Love (8:58) / City Of Dreams (9:38) / Golden Age (8:07) / The Promise (13:28)
Stephen Nardelli - vocals
Chris Squire - bass, vocals
Paul Stacey - guitar, vocals
Gerard Johnson - keyboards, vocals
Jeremy Stacey - drums
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* Original Syn (2004) (YesServices Edition)
* Original Syn 1965-2004 (2005)
* Syndestructible (2005)