“It’s a collection of pop songs, but ones we have messed around with”
Released on Inside Out Music on 23 March 2018 and reviewed with the dial turned up by Paul Quinton
Kino is a joint project of John Mitchell (IQ, It Bites, Arena, Frost, Lonely Robot and several other musical concerns) and Pete Trewavas, principally known as bassist in Marillion, but also a key contributor to Transatlantic and Edison’s Children. This duo are augmented by John Beck, also of It Bites on keyboards, and Craig Blundell, also of Frost and currently manning the drums in Steven Wilson’s band, which all adds up to a veritable wealth of experience by anyone’s standards. Kino was originally a side project for Mitchell and Trewavas, recording a single album in 2005, ‘Picture’, and the number of projects the various musicians have been involved with in the subsequent years goes some way to explaining why it’s taken thirteen years to produce a follow up.
The quote at the beginning of this review, about pop songs messed around with, is from Mitchell, when the album was first announced, but to be fair, I think he undersells it somewhat, as this is a very fine collection of songs in its own right. It has to be said that it feels more of a John Mitchell project than a group effort, he takes most of the vocals and the sound and feel of the songs echoes far more of his solo work and his excellent Lonely Robot project than anything the other band members have been involved in. The song writing is almost epic in feel, especially on the title track, and although several of the songs are well over the five or six minute mark, there’s a conciseness and drive about them that ensures they don’t feel like long songs and never outstay their welcome.
The title track opens the album, with a stately keyboard and a brief but excellent guitar solo, then that epic feel makes itself known for the first time. It’s a bit of anthem, this one, but on the second track, ‘The Dead Club’, Kino take a bit of a left turn, introducing a bit of metal and electronica behind some more confrontational lyrics with sidelong references to self destructive artists. I wonder who he had in mind. If ‘Idlewild’ seems calmer after the previous track, with a tranquil piano introduction, there’s quite an accusatory lyric. A slower song, but no less powerful.
There’s another sideways shift for ‘I Don’t Know Why’, which is more of a conventional rock song, which hints at the same progressive pop seam that Cats In Space have mined, before one of the highlights of the album, ‘Temple Tudor’, which is another reflective song, along the same lines as the magnificent ‘Why Do We Stay’ on the first Lonely Robot album, and the reflection continues with ‘Out Of Time’, which keeps up the high standard of writing on the album. This has just enough changes of tempo and mood, not to mention a great instrumental section, including a brief bass workout from Pete Trewavas, to keep the Prog flag flying.
If there are some missteps on the album, they seem to occur toward the end, as there are a couple of songs that don’t quite reach the standard of the earlier parts of the album. ‘Grey Shapes on Concrete Fields’ has a fair amount of energy, but even after a few listens doesn’t quite succeed in lodging itself in your memory, whereas ‘Keep The Faith’ is an ambitious song, in several parts, with another fine solo from Mitchell, but it lacks a real impact. On the other hand, the last track, ‘The Silent Fighter Pilot’, restores the balance, as this is a brilliant piece that has more crammed into its five minutes than a lot of songs fit into twice the length. Apart from some more fine guitar work from Mitchell, again there’s that sense of the epic, and it’s a great end to the album.
In conclusion, the various musicians involved in the album have made a record they can be proud of. The songs are almost all excellent, the playing is terrific throughout, and it really is a fine piece of work. I don’t know if Kino will ever play this music live, and looking at the various members’ schedules, it wouldn’t be for quite a while, if ever, but in the meantime, ‘Radio Voltaire’ is a pretty good way to come back after a thirteen year hiatus. I hope there’s more in the pipeline.
- Radio Voltaire
- The Dead Club
- I Don’t Know Why
- I Won’t Break So Easily Anymore
- Temple Tudor
- Out Of Time
- Warmth Of The Sun
- Grey Shapes On Concrete Fields
- Keep The Faith
- The Silent Fighter Pilot