13 November 2019

Album Review: The Legendary Pink Dots – Angel In The Detail

The always clever and mind expanding Legendary Pink Dots return once more with new album ‘Angel In The Detail’ and it is a blinder.

The Legendary Pink Dots exist outside of the defined mainstream and are a band treasured by many, though perhaps nowhere near as many as they deserve. It is therefore my job as reviewer to try and convince the uninitiated that they should give this album a thoroughly good spin. So how shall I hook you dear reader? Well, imagine a trippy and eclectic collision between Bowie at his most experimental, Pink Floyd at their most atmospheric and throw in oodles of prog and electronica, are you intrigued yet?

For those of you already acquainted with the Dots to some degree, I’ll bring you up to speed. This album brings their release tally to more than 40 albums in a four decade career. A daunting prospect for a new listener to wrap their head around, but don’t be off put, start here! Chief Dots Edward Ka-Spel (vocals, keyboards, songwriter) and Phil Knight [aka The Silverman] (keyboards, electronics), are joined by guitarist Erik Drost for ‘Angel In The Detail’, the band’s
follow-up to 2016’s ‘Pages Of Aquarius’.

Now, ‘Angel In The Detail’ is unmistakable as a Dots album, but it is also clearly a very strong entry in their discography. It is surreal, quirky, dense and whimsical, funky and complex and charmingly enjoyable. This is an album that feels alive and full of weird wonder. It starts in an upbeat manner with ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’, hypnotic rhythms and pulsing bass setting the scene for Ka-Spel’s unique voice and surreal poetic lyrics. ‘Double Double’ drifts hazily in comparison, bubbling synths and a touch of guitar, and a chorus that has more than a hint of magic to it. A funky guitar riff introduces ‘Junkyard’, a quirky and poppy song with darkly witty lyrics belying the lighter musical palette. ‘Itchycoo Shark/Isle Of Sighs’ is a two parter with the first being a somber lament to the digital age. Soundscapes bridge the gap into the second part, a brooding and delicious minor key piece. We are not left morose for long however, as ‘Neon Calculators’ feels sprightly and has an urgency to it. Next is another double bill, ‘My Land/Parallels’, the first part of which is surreal collage of bleeps and squelches that is both jarring and tranquil at the same time, while ‘Parallels’ is a slow burner filled with echoes of an ominous future with perhaps a glimmer of hope also. Melodically it is one of the more haunting numbers on the album. Following the pattern of up tempo/brooding, ‘Maid To Measure’ is another kooky psychedelic pop song that sprinkles light on its dark predecessor while lyrics flirt with future sex. Bucking the trend, ‘Mantis’ does not slip back into somber mood and carries itself with a swaying rhythm and crystalline synths. ‘Penultimate track ‘The Photographer’ is a slightly sinister piece of musical drama wit finely crafted bombast, the chorus soaring to heights along with the best of the Dots. And then we reach the conclusion, the eleven minute epic that is ‘Red Flag’, perhaps also the master stroke of the album as it visits countless sonic terrains while somehow making it sound cohesive. Taking in rolling percussion, heavenly choirs, sublime guitar, luscious pads and more besides, it really is a thing of beauty.

I have tried not to dwell too much on the fact that this is the latest in a long line of albums from a band 40 years into their career, as this is such a strong album that it does not need the weight of history to back it up. The production is flawless with everything having its space, the songs are finely crafted and full of subtleties and the lyrics are as strangely poetic as ever. I urge anyone open to wonderfully weird music to give this a go.