CRR archive album review by Eric Sandberg — The Aaron Clift Experiment - If All Goes Wrong
Before I begin my review of this album I want to preface it by saying that I greatly admire anyone who loves music, creates music, dedicates countless hours learning to play their instruments and, most importantly, are willing to put themselves out there to be heard and judged by the unruly mob. There are many big time critics that have taken great pleasure in savaging and ridiculing the works of others (J.D. Considine comes to mind). Sometimes the attacks are warranted, like when an extremely talented and established artist betrays his or her talent for a buck (Rod Stewart anyone?).
As someone who can write a little, and has been given a platform by Jeb Wright, the founder of this esteemed website, I am afforded the opportunity to hear a lot of new music that I wouldn't ordinarily get to hear and share what I think about it with you, the reader. Some of it has been great and fun to share and some has been so awful that I chose not to write anything about it at all. I'm also wrong sometimes, lavishing praise on something not so deserving of it, perhaps because I was star-struck...hey, I'm human.
This brings me to The Aaron Clift Experiment's third release, If All Goes Wrong. I know very little about The Aaron Clift experiment so I am definitely letting the music and album cover do the talking. Starting with the album art; it's a very nice painting and works as an eye-catching visual. The album title also works well with the graphics. So far, so good...but what if all goes wrong after that?
I'm afraid it does for the most part. Granted, there is some excellent musicianship and compositional chops on display here...some lovely melodies... and I believe there is enough raw talent and skill involved to make music down the road that is next-level if they keep at it and are willing to accept honest, constructive criticism.
The band name, The Aaron Clift Experiment, belies the utter lack of originality of the music within. This is PROG music in that it emulates, simulates and imitates the works of other artists who were truly breaking down the boundaries of Rock and Roll...um, fifty years ago.
There are some compelling albeit familiar musical moments thanks to some great playing and a basic understanding of musical dynamics but they are hard to enjoy when they are accompanied by singing that is, at best, overly mannered and bland, and, at worst, straining and off key. The quality of the singing unfortunately highlights lyrics that would sound pretentious and hackneyed coming out of the regal pipes of a 22 year old Greg Lake in 1969.
The Aaron Clift Experiment is trying way too hard to recreate something in a way that has been pulled off successfully, maybe just once when Steven Wilson unleashed The Raven That Refused To Sing and Other Stories a few years ago. That album evoked Early Yes, Genesis and King Crimson without copying them, just as Wilson nodded toward Peter Gabriel's So (1986) and Kate Bush's The Hounds of Love (1985) with his most recent album (To The Bone) without borrowing a note from either.
Admittedly, comparing these earnest and talented young men to a seasoned professional genius like Steven Wilson is unfair but I will stipulate that I have a hard time listening to the first couple of Porcupine Tree albums all the way through.
They have their moments but massive musical growth and the addition of talented personnel is what ultimately made Porcupine Tree, and Wilson, world beaters. If this band can honestly self-reflect and look at what can be done to take them to the next-level (ie: come up with a new name, find a dynamic vocalist and reassess their lyrical approach) I really want to hear what they do next.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.