Thing of the Day
To Arms Etc.
TO ARMS ETC – To Arms Etc. (self release) – The London band really are one of the best kept musical secrets around, and this latest album is as fine as anything they’ve done so far. The self-titled album is their second, unless you count leader Charles Campbell Jones’ excellent solo album as the real first one, if that’s the case (and it is), then this is the third very fine album from Charles and his excellent band.
To Arms Etc make clever prog that drips with all the uplifting tuneful goodness of the classic 70’s bands without ever sounding retro or dated. They have the early Genesis melodic richness, the little hints of Van Der Graaf bite and dark twist, the skippy English breeze of Gentle Giant, and they have an alternative poppy drive to it all though, an uplifting starry-sky sound of now rather than then. A clever time-signature skip here, a healthy musical jump there, and none of it ever sounding indulgent or excessively overblown (not that we’d complain in if was, nothing wrong with indulgent excess).
To Arms Etc are timelessly refreshing, they’re full-bodied, they’re a delight on the ear, almost poppy if that notion wasn’t so devalued in these X factor days – good proggy pop, like those things you’d hear on the radio from bands like Cockney Rebel, ELO, Elton John and such. We could talk of Editors or Doves or Elbow or whoever, but those bands aren’t so rich in counter-melody and the authentic unmistakable taste of ‘proper prog’ as To Arms Etc are, those bands don’t have those naturally flowing classic prog-flavoured bits that just send that shiver up the spine the way this band does it - those tiny-epic slices of keyboard that feel so good.
Nowhere near as harshly sharp-edged as Peter Hammill, Charles Campbell Jones is far softer in terms of delivery, far more wide-eyed with the wonder of it all rather than being out on the edge and ready to fall off; you can, however, detect the positive influence of Hammill and Van Der Graaf both in the vocal phrasing and the musical shifts - a lighter shade of drama, a little undercurrent in those lyrics when you pay full attention. Their impressive cover of Tears For Fears’ The Hurting comes out sounding more like IQ or lusher Andy Sears period Twelfth Night than anything, an excellent version actually, and a classic Tears For Fears track. The band’s own material is more than strong enough to stand next to it.
Charles handles most of the vocals, there are female leads here and there, different voices adding more dimension, not sure who’s singing what, synth player Tiia Jaakola or maybe bass player Miriam Grundström? Whoever’s playing or taking their turn with the singing, To Arms Etc have done it again, another triumphant album. Don’t let the secret evade you for too much longer… proper stuff - there goes another classic bit of 7/8 skipping and the urge of a savage beast, and that uplifting detail at the end of Bear Talk… details passing again and again, glowing bits of everything just right, take a deep breath, open season’s here, embrace the feeling, punch the sky, to arms etcetera…