"...with eloquent lyrics that lead you by
the heart into an extravagance of melody and charismatic hooks,
MY GOD (5:47)
Length: 69:32 (min:secs)
After their heyday period in the 1980’s and a sad demise in the early 90’s, it was welcome news to many during 2006 that Cumbrian prog rockers It Bites had reformed and the question almost from the start always seemed to be ‘when will there be a new album’. And here it is; the long awaited and much anticipated release and their first studio album for almost 20 years, majestically entitled ‘The Tall Ships’. The album was effectively recorded as a three piece with originating members Beck and Dalton joined by ‘Kino/Arena/The Urbane’ keystone Mitchell who really seems to have made a unifying impact upon both writing and performance.
It’s an album of largely uplifting and hugely enjoyable slices of progressive pop-rock with a lush of melodic guitars, keyboards and vocals. In fact there are so many well crafted melodies that initially catch your attention, it is only after a few listens that they settle down and insist on implanting themselves in your head for the rest of the day, seriously so with songs like ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Great Disaster’. There are the occasional basslines or keyboard passages that give a dated feel to the sound and has you looking over your shoulder to see if you can see Marillion or Magnum gatecrashing the party (armed with a working Zip drive). But having said that, without these elements perhaps it just wouldn’t be recognisable as It Bites?
But what an album, with most songs erring on the side of pop-rock and almost every song is a highlight. The noted exception in style is the last track “This Is England” which unashamedly heads much deeper into progressive rock territory but without being a bad song somehow seems to lean a little awkwardly on the end of the album. Overall, there's definitely a reassuring quality of accomplished song writing throughout and it is refreshing to hear well placed solo guitar runs that complement rather than displace the song. Adding to this, Mitchell’s vocals come somewhere between Peter Gabriel’s tonal qualities and Brian Adams gravelly nature, which result in a pleasing outcome that's further enhanced with complimenting backing from Beck and Dalton.
It's an album of eleven songs with eloquent lyrics that lead you by the heart into an extravagance of melody and charismatic hooks, which entangle themselves remorselessly into your psyche, playing over and over until much later they unashamedly force you to whistle or hum them out loud. This album manages to present plenty of modern freshness and commercial influences but still retains sufficient elements of their progressive rock roots so that it should be possible to please fans old and new alike. A first class comeback and a musical move into the present.
- Dave Yates
(12th October, 2008)
Bob Dalton, Lee Pomeroy (new bass player), John Mitchell and John Beck