Progressive rock is one of those genres that you absolutely love growing up, then move through derision and cynicism towards it, before you end up rediscovering what so appealed to you within it when you were growing up. At least, that’s how it was for me: the bright eyed hope and thirst for the grandiose that accompanied my teen years made bands like King Crimson, Yes, Rush, The Flower Kings, and more perfect musical companions. But then, as I started to encounter the challenges of actually living and expanded my musical horizons, I drifted away from the flamboyant declarations of love, faith, hope, and struggle that usually accompanied such works. But, today, I have moved past that phase and am slowly rediscovering my love for cheesy synths, big guitar hooks and, most of all, the kind of cheery brightness that is so often associated with progressive rock.
That’s why Cheeto’s Magazine’s Amazingous is one of the most played records of the past few months for me. I bought it in a whim, because of its cover art (this used to be one of my favorite to do back when I still bought CDs) and I have not regretted it ever since I did. Amazingous is most comparable to The Flower Kings (and their “side project”, Transatlantic, which contains one Roine Stolt) in its tone and style. It features those giant guitar/synth combos that the Swedish band were known for and the same kind of silly, irreverent, and moving dedication to the magnificent. Check out “Ready to Rumble” as a perfect example. The track wastes absolutely zero time, exploding with so many synths that you can’t help but laugh; there’s even a sample of a wolf howling at the moon in the background. Swerve quickly through energetic vocals, backed by a wonderful choir, and you wind up with even more guitar hooks, some wonderful solos near the end of the track and all the cheese you might need.
The next track performs that classic prog rock trick; cutting itself on the catharsis of the previous track, it starts off mellow and focused on the vocals. “Close Your Eyes” also includes lines like “time to dream for dreamers” and somber backing vocals to back up such audacity and cheese before transforming into an optimistic frolick, complete with doo-wops and plenty of fun. The thing is, the band are obviously incredibly invested in these antics; nothing here is played “just” for laughs. There’s a passion that runs through the entire album which is the key to making this kind of music well. Looking deeper into the Barcelona based band and the themes which make them tick, we can detect a broader artistic intent than this album. The characters on this album, often heard in silly samples throughout it, inhibit a grander world, a world filled with color and love.
And don’t we all need a world filled with color and love? I woke up today to the news that the US is once again ready to don its “world police” cap, as if it ever took it off. Australia is burning. Things are bad. I woke up and, like a person asphyxiated, reached for the bright pastures of Amazingous. Some might call it escapism and they’d be right. But in order to maybe create a better world some time in the future, we need to survive, and well made, thoughtful music that’s also not afraid to have a laugh, to be over the top, to be flamboyant, is needed for our survival. For mine, at least. Just like progressive rock helped me get through the hormonal upheaval of my coming of age, so is Amazingous, as complex, silly, and colorful an album as can be, helping me cope with my everyday life. If you open up your heart, it has a lot of love to give you. And, of course, some sick and interesting music.
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Amazingous was released on February 15th, 2019. You can grab it via the Bandcamp page above.