Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson once stated in an interview that “…the Mars Volta, Tool, and Radiohead. . .are the future of progressive music.” I would like to add The Tea Club to that list. Although these US proggers make a customary nod in the direction of the prog classics, much of their sound is drawn from the well of the current rock scene. Since 2010 with their second album “Rabbit”, The Tea Club have been on the radar, and it’s tantamount to criminal that I’m only first hearing them on this, their third album. To put it simply; “Quickly Quickly Quickly” is the sort of album that will only grow on the listener and the progressive community at large as time goes by. It’s a wonderful fusion of post-rock aesthetic, progressive song structure and the loose-reined vigour of punk rock. Although 2012 was a year host to output of impressive records from some of progressive rock’s finest, The Tea Club just may have topped them all.
Comparisons to The Mars Volta or The Dear Hunter are inevitable; besides each of these bands’ names starting with everyone’s favourite definite article, The Tea Club take aspects of the oft-recycled progressive formula and successfully translate them to a 21st century context. Although most of these ‘nu-progressive’ (or ‘modern prog’- what’s the term I’m supposed to use here?) artists tend to get first compared to Porcupine Tree, The Tea Club go for a much more sporadic sound. “Quickly Quickly Quickly” demonstrates this from the very start; the eighteen minute “Firebears” opens with an appropriately fiery instrumental passage that incorporates all the best elements of jazz fusion, punk, and vintage progressive rock. Of course, like all the best, The Tea Club exercise moderation in their music. “Firebears” ultimately settles down into a mellowed-out midsection with a sublime balance between soft instrumentation and captivating vocal melodies. Later on and throughout the album, The Tea Club showcase the emotive and energetic in relatively equal proportions. “The Eternal German Infant” represents this binary effect to wonderful results: it successfully pairs melodic catchiness and harmony with the sort of chaotic riffs and distortion you would normally hear in math rock.
Although certain passages (particularly the mellowed midsection of “Firebears” and the filmscore-worthy album climax) stole my heart from the first listen, “Quickly Quickly Quickly” is- contrary to the album’s title- an album that took its time to grow and ferment. There aren’t too many albums that manage to be instantly gratifying and long-lasting simultaneously, but the band’s mixed approach ensures that the album retains its flair and poignance throughout many a listen. Possibly the most accessible and inviting aspect of The Tea Club’s sound are the vocals, offered here by the brothers McGowan, Patrick and Dan. Although at times they hit the higher notes and bombast of The Dear Hunter’s Casey Crescenzo (or Coheed & Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez), both vocalists’ strength lay in the more laid-back, mid-range vocals. If proof is needed, I refer once again to the midsection on “Firebears”- “I watched as you spun your web…” . The vocals do much more for less. On the other side of the spectrum, there are a few times when the vocals try to reach out of their regular zone, occasionally hitting ‘scream’ territory. Although it could have potentially worked in this sort of music, the brothers McGowan’s more aggressive passages aren’t as impressive as the rest of the vocal passage. Regardless, there’s not a note here that leaves a bitter taste- The Tea Club have made a near-perfect album here, and still, I’m left feeling they’ll be able to hit even greater heights in time.
Although “Quickly (x3)” never reaches the sort of chaotic energy that a band like The Mars Volta typically hit, the balance between musical disciplines insures that the album never feels monotonous. Even on the epic-worthy, eighteen minute opener, The Tea Club never extend themselves past what is tasteful. It’s this willpower to keep themselves from exercising the ‘ultra-prog’ aspect of their sound that makes The Tea Club such an attractive prospect in a scene that often values technical showmanship over emotive profundity. The album’s relatively brief length keeps it from ever wearing out its welcome or encroaching on dinner time, but most importantly, it’s left me wanting more from the band. Check them out- by the gods- I implore thee!
1. Firebears (17:52)
2. The Eternal German Infant (8:17)
3. Mister Freeze (6:47)
4. I Shall Consume Everything (9:25)
* Patrick McGowan – vocals, guitar
* Dan McGowan – guitar, vocals
* Joe Rizzolo – drums
* Becky Osenenko – keyboards
* Charles Batdorf – bass