Being a rabid horror movie aficionado the first thing that jumped out at me when researching the band Half Past Four was that they were responsible for the filmscore to Billy Zane's wickedly funny 2007 horror/comedy “The Mad”. The movie is about a father and daughter who happen upon a roadside diner over-whelmed by a hoard of flesh-eating killers who unknowingly ate a $16.95 'free range' burger made from the tainted meat of mad cows.
Right from the start they found a kindred spirit in me.
And apparently a bit of that irreverent humor transposed from the movie to their music, with songs like the twisted fairy tale “Wolf” which is peppered with lyrics like:
“Once upon a time there was a big wolf
Who liked to read in bed.
His wife was the greatest hunter in the land
And she kept him fed.
While he read trashy fiction
To erase the pain of ignoring the kitchen.”
And equally quirky lyrics for the track “Spin The Girl”:
“Vessel for a soda pop
Pointing pointing stoppy stop
Little girl with lollipop
Open mouth and open top.”
Lyrics seemingly channeled from the cosmic spirit of Frank Zappa. All that's missing is a warning not to eat the yellow snow.
Half Past Four exudes a refreshing tongue-in-cheek attitude reminding us that music can also be fun and prog/rock need not be for stuffed shirts and music scholars. As an example I'd refer you to their YouTube promotional video for “Good Things”. The promo is presented in the style of those cheesy late night commercials for K-Tel 'party music' compilations. They even promise free Half Past Four rolling paper to callers who respond within the next 15 minutes. And the suggestion that both 8 track and cassettes have been sold-out brought a smile to my face. Until recently I still had a stash of old 8 tracks in my garage.
“Good Things” is the follow-up to their well received 2008 debut album “Rabbit In The Vestibule”.
Half Past Four calls Canada home, yet all but the vocalist Kyree Vibrant hail from the USSR.
The current line-up consists of founding members Constantin Necrasov (guitars and backing vocals), Dmitry Lesov (bass guitar, Chapman Stick, and backing vocals) who formed the band in 1999, Igor Kurtzman (keyboards and backing vocals) who joined soon afterward, lead vocalist Kyree Vibrant, and the most recent addition to the band Marcello Ciurleo (drums and backing vocals).
Whereas the majority of neo-progressive bands seem to be inspired by classical music, Half Past Four leans towards Avant-garde, jazz, and Canterbury influences.
Yet there are a few surprises along the way which establishes the band with their own unique identity, including the Dick Dale surf-guitar styling on the track “Rise”, the oddball Zappa-esque track “Spin The Girl” which conjures up memories of madcap orchestra leader Spike Jones, as well as the poly-rhythmic synchronization of King Crimson, unexpected flashes of funky Southern-Fried boogie, hard-driving rock and roll, and impressive YES-styled keyboard/guitar interplay.
“Good Things” isn't the typical glossy progressive rock recording drenched in lavish studio effects and layer upon layer of lush textures, it's raw progressive rock with the sense of immediacy one associates with a live recording.
Flickers of bands like White Willow, Citadel, Steely Dan, Flash, Yes, White Witch, Mostly Autumn, The Gathering, early Genesis, Farpoint, Grace Slick's pre-Jefferson Airplane band The New Society, and some quirky elements of the B-52s come to mind. Although Half Past Four draws the combined influences of many bands – progressive and otherwise - they don't outright mimic any particular band so comparisons for reference purpose is pretty hard.
The vocals of Kyree Vibrant can run the gambit from sultry siren, playful joker, to raucous rock and roll Queen. One can hear bits of Kate Bush, Grace Slick, the Wilson sisters of Heart, Kate Pierson & Cindy Wilson of The B-52's, and Amy Lee of Evanescence. That's quite a mixed bag – but reflects the dexterity of her vocal style.
The compositions are tight and the musicianship exceptional.
I was taken aback by the eerie dissonant guitar in the early stages of the track “All Day And All Night” as it tended to sound a bit disturbing and out of key. Yet I believe it was the atmospheric mood Necrosov was going for. So if it was meant to keep you off kilter – he accomplished his goal.
All 12 tracks are of medium length and never over-stay their welcome. Each track is blessed with a catchy hook, the dynamic vocal delivery of Kyree Vibrant, and enough instrumentally interplay to draw the attention of the most jaded proghead.
The band describe the concept behind “Good Things” in this way:
“This album is a collection of songs that represents the depth of our years together and the maturing of our songwriting as a band. Creating it felt harmonious, like a family would feel in a kitchen preparing a meal. It only felt natural then to decide to compare it thusly when giving it a title and concept. Another element that brought that idea together was the reality that progressive rock can be a challenging and alienating music in that it creates a division between band and audience. By showing a simple loaf of bread – which is the universal symbol for community and inclusiveness we INVITE the listener to break it with us – to join us at our table, enjoy themselves and comfortably consume our music, the creation of which was very pleasurable and intuitive – like most good cooking experiences are. We hope that when you open our CD and take out the cookbook you will notice the recipes inside are notes and lyrics you can read along with while you listen to the music, and the place that is created in your headphones will feel like a warm fragrant kitchen that we are all hanging out in together.”
Having dined at the family kitchen of Half Past Four I highly recommend the following entrees from the menu: “Rise” (item 4), “Landmines” (item 5), “Cool Water” (item 6), “Fate” (item 8), “I Am Lion” (item 9), “Darkness” (item 11) and “The Earth” (item 12).
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on May 17th, 2013