Pure Reason Revolution

Century Media, 2020

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


It took nine years and a family for Jon Courtney to bring his old band back to life, but Pure Reason Revolution has returned in a big way, with a 46-minute, six song modern prog album that fans of the genre will want to seek out.

Although there is a stronger Smashing Pumpkins influence here than before, the album is still sonically close to the band’s 2006 debut The Dark Third, an underrated and flawed gem. Even now, “The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning” is worth seeking out, particularly the second half of the song, which shifts from a languid jam into a roaring rocker with such confidence that you forget it’s a debut.

There isn’t a single moment on Eupnea that eclipses that song, but there are some moments that come close, and overall it’s a joy to hear Courtney and Chloe Alper together again (the only two members who are back on board). The lyrics feature a lot of oblique references to Courtney becoming a father and the medical issues that occurred when his child was born; it’s a simple conceit, but a powerful and universal one. It’s an entirely credible catalyst for creating new music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sonically, Courtney and Alper sound more confident and less affected than before. One can still hear the latent Pink Floyd influences in the first half of “Silent Genesis,” which plods along for a few minutes before the wall of synths and guitars come in, and then just after the seven-minute mark the drums rocket to life, all snare fills and heavy metal guitar riffage to end the song, with only a brief (and unnecessary) vocal break to split up the piece.

Both “Maelstrom” and “New Obsession” follow a midtempo prog-pop-hard rock format to varying results; better is “Ghosts And Typhoons,” which not only has a lot of likes and views on its creative YouTube video (more than any other song here), but which nails a menacing slow build within its intricate structure. To be fair, the breakdown in “New Obsession” and the self-confidence within its walls is admirable as well, but “Ghosts” simply hits harder and exists more dangerously.

“Beyond Our Bodies” is a brief and low-key respite that does little else but lead into the 13-minute title track, which – like any good prog epic – winds its way through several structures and takes you on a head trip while doing so. The introduction is a bit long, only keyboard and gorgeous harmony vocals (always a strength of this band), but around three minutes in, the snaky guitar riff starts to establish itself, holding court in the center of the room as the synths and vocals wind around it. The song then alternates between slower and louder sections, so if you don’t like a particular passage, wait 60 seconds and a new one will come up. It doesn’t necessarily all hang together, but it ends on a suitably creepy sustained note, vocal and then an exhale, like a candle blowing out.

Calling this a highlight of modern prog would be a stretch, but calling it one of the better prog-rock albums of 2020 (and that includes anything that’s coming after June) is accurate. Pound for pound, the songs are just as good or better than the band’s previous output (barring “Ambassadors:”), but this time they have the added weight of real-life emotion, self-confidence and bracing sonic clarity from a duo hungry to make music again.

Rating: B

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