Flickertista, 2008

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Product is an act that takes the art of concept albums to Wikipedia level. In the same vein as the band’s other records, all of which are based on historical figures – On Water is about the story of Jacob Nagle, a young sailor during the American Revolution; Aire is inspired by Galileo; The Fire is based on the life of Nero – is Earth, an album inspired by the life and works of Nikola Tesla.

Earth flows as an autobiographical narrative, and beneath the sometimes pedantic accounts of Tesla’s life and works is a brilliant musical foundation. The duo, made up by Arman Christoff Boyles and Scott Rader, is creative with their music, taking care not to let the meticulously factual – and hence overly academic – lyrics become boring chapters out of a history book. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Earth brims with the vibrancy of a well-made concept record, balancing the weight of its theme with complementing music that never gets too self-indulgent.

Stylistically, this album inherits from a diverse range of influences. It seems to be in a constant state of flux with its facile switching between genres (prog rock, electronica, art rock, folk rock), indulging in a rich canvas of shifting mood and setting up for a dramatic listening experience.

Even with its intelligent repetition of concepts, as evidenced by the breezy chorus of the opening track “America Pt.1,” which transforms into a song as a continuation of the subsequent track “Edison,” and usage of sound-bytes as avenues into and out of tracks, Earth is not the kind of progressive record, one would associate with bands like Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Tool, Porcupine Tree and the like. Unlike the others, Product’s music is least driven by unconventional rhythmic meters or extraordinary music-playing;  they are not a band of exceptionally gifted or brazenly flamboyant musicians.

The disc’s dark and languorous sound has a close resemblance with the Elbow’s aberrant folk-rock debut, the gloomy Asleep In The Back. Even Boyles’ vocals have the same laidback, scruffy, and emotional quality to those of Elbow’s Guy Garvey, and the cuts “Edison,” “Earth,” and “War Machines” are, in fact, folk-tinged, different from a stereotypical “progressive” sound. The track-segues and instrumentals (“1893 World’s Fair,” “Message”) are sparsely ambient with lush layers of towering synthesizers.

The musical complexity of Earth is as fascinating as its concept. The way in which the band weaves the various stylistic elements into the theme of the record is superb. A lesson in history never sounded so cool.

Rating: A

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