The professionals already said all this but I thought a fan review would be nice.
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This an album about surviving, it is not an album about giving up…
I’m not a reviewer and I never write about music and the thought of writing a review of an album terrifies me but a few things I read about I Dream Of Black concerned me slightly. First I would hate if anyone gave this album the depressing tag because that couldn’t be further from the truth. Beautifully dark yes, yet at the same time totally uplifting.
I was flicking through TV channels last night with no sound and reading subtitled lyrics for god knows what band and I couldn’t believe how bad they were. And that alone made me want to listen to I Dream Of Black and really appreciate it. I don’t have the lyrics but listening to the songs, the meaning is crystal clear.
The one song that really stands out is Will The Moon Ever Rise Again for the sense of quiet contemplation and the tenderness of the vocals. You just want to repeat play it which is unfair to the rest of the album. And as you listen, you can literally see the full moon in the sky shining brightly, illuminating the sadness. There’s such a brightness in the dark. And the video, if there was one, would show Thomas sitting in the middle of an empty room, slowly strumming his guitar, and through the window behind him the moon high in the sky. By the end you’d have a lump in your throat. That’s what music’s supposed to do. You feel a sense of helplessness, in the black of night… like a tiny dot on planet earth. And there’s no-one to hear you except for the moon. Everyone’s been there at 3am at some time in their lives. The worst thing is that bands are writing songs about nothing. Thomas White could never be guilty of that.
Wartime Love continues the sentiment and there is no sense of escape. You imagine sweethearts swapping this on 78 rpm in romantic days of old. Maybe he whistles the tune to himself on the battlefield and she plays the fragile old record in the bomb shelter. The emotion is claustrophobic but real. All through time people have been ripped apart whatever the reason. Wars, hatred, death it’s all the same. The song asks the question “whatever happened to the love?” but there is no answer because by then it’s too late and you can never get it back again…
The Runaround could almost be from a different artist entirely and has a devil may care attitude towards an un-named guilty party (record labels, press, fans, all three?) Maybe just maybe those people who still to this day proclaim the first Electric Soft Parade album will always be the best or those from the recording industry who got it so horribly wrong – kicking ESP off their label must be a crime against music surely.
“They’ll give you everything that you need, they’ll give you everything that you don’t need”. Thomas proudly declares he has “made it through the heart attacks” and I think he may very well still be making music in a good 20 years time, against all the odds.
Starry Nite #2 is a Love Song and brings a sense of security to the record:
Sun in the sky, sand between my toes
Been walking a while, forever I suppose
Since we’ve been here, I haven’t slept a wink
It’s been time enough, time enough to think
Everybody knows, that we’ve been getting close
No-one understands, you’ve got oceans in your eyes
When I look at you and you look back at me
Suddenly I’m comfortable, talking ’bout infinity
No longer in a darkened room but sitting on a beach writing the lyrics on a notepad maybe wondering if they would ever see the light of day… This album is like stumbling across a very personal diary and knowing you shouldn’t really be reading it. At first glance some people may toss it to one side and dismiss it as a morbid curiosity, maybe they should have actually taken the time to examine the contents.
The Silence Stops Tonight has cryptic lyrics that flow into funky instrumentals (he’s just showing off his drumming really) This is very Electric Soft Parade and makes you want them back and soon. You can almost imagine Alex on backing towards the end. At one time the idea of one of the band going solo would have been unheard of but Alex did help out on recording and mixing Wartime Love. This is definitely an ESP song in its embryonic form though I reject the idea that it’s in any way a “half finished idea” as Thomas has said of the songs on this album. He may have been freezing his feet off in a basement but it’s far from that.
I’m not sure I’m qualified to review them, not being a musician. They are: I Dream Of Black (just incredibly peaceful) This Is Just A Little Interlude (drumming high in the mix!)
Starry Nite #3: with its mournful clarinet intro and piano accompaniment which segues into distorted bass for a few seconds then unearthly strings and piano, a short acoustic section and finally arrives at an electric guitar solo that sounds in places like it’s a keyboard (I mean that in a good way) there are so many different sounds. I don’t know how to describe it but it’s magical.
White Wave is the sound of electricity crackling down power lines, almost like a song from the future (just as Wartime Love could be a song from the past) There are so many different styles on this album it opens your mind. One thing I know is it’s a million miles away from the album everybody has up there as the best thing ESP ever did. It’s so different it doesn’t even compare.
Solar Collapse officially “imagines the sound of a solar implosion as heard from earth”. It is definitely out of this world that’s for sure. There’s eerie breathing sampled in the background at one point and the music is full of restrained tension yet you know the end is coming and somehow Thomas has managed to recreate the sound of vast nothingness that makes you think, if the end’s like that, it’ll be OK actually.
Not forgetting the opening track, Is It Wrong To Lose Faith In The Person You Used To Love? which could be a letter from his subconcious to himself: Come back home, you’ve had a mad time… Is it wrong to lose, faith in the person you used, to love?
…Anyone who can make music like I Dream Of Black should be very proud of themselves indeed.