Conflict And Dreams


Magna Carta Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The problem with progressive rock in general is that it's so pompously overblown. For a time, I had been pleasantly surprised at some of the new generation of progressive rock I heard coming forth in the market - even made me dig up an old bootleg of King Crimson someone gave me over a decade ago.

But the latest release from Cairo, Conflict And Dreams, almost ruins all the progress I've heard in the last six months. If you've got the patience to sit through this one nonstop, the more power to you.

First, the positives: lead singer Bret Douglas sounds a lot like one of the vocalists for the Alan Parsons Project, while the instrumental work from keyboardist Mark Robertson, drummer Jeff Brockman, guitarist Alec Fuhrman and bassist Jamie Browne does show many moments of brilliance.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The problem comes in the songs themselves - mainly, Cairo doesn't know when enough is enough. The hour-plus disc contains only six songs - one of which is a 1:25 interlude called "Image" (and is a beautiful track). But of the remaining tracks, only one clocks in at under 10 minutes - and I don't know many people these days who would be willing to sit through a 15 or a 17 minute song without wanting to get up and give their ears a break. (C'mon, gang, didn't we learn from Yes's Tales From Topographic Oceans?)

The sheer length of the tracks is enough to crush the instrumental moments of brilliance on Conflict And Dreams - after you've been hit over the head with a track like "Valley Of The Shadow" (clocking in at just under 16 minutes, enough time for the Blackhawks to guarantee they won't make the playoffs), that tasty riff from Fuhrman or that great harmony vocal bridge gets buried in so much musical noodling.

The solution? Master tape, meet Mr. Razor Blade. Many of the songs on Conflict And Dreams could have been chopped down to more manageable lengths without sacrificing musical integrity of the pieces. Or, maybe these could have been subdivided into particular movements and been assigned their own tracks - anything to break up the musical version of the run-on sentence.

And it's not that I have anything in particular against long tracks. Fact is, if the songs are well written, the time will seem to fly by. But in the case of Conflict And Dreams, they just try to cram too much into the music - and in the end, it suffers. I could have been praising tracks like "Corridors" or "Then You Were Gone" had I not been numbed into senselessness.

Cairo will undoubtedly come back from this one, and there is promise heard in the music that suggests these guys will make a name for themselves. But after Conflict And Dreams, they're first going to have to work on clearing their name.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.