After completing this project, originally titled "Aural", as part of the Cavalcade of Evil project, we decided to expand and improve some of the songs, add some additional songs, and release it as a separate CD.
In the grand tradition of progressive rock, a concept album about progressive rock.
The title “Topographic Pictures of the Crimson Lamb's Tears” is itself saturated with references:
Topographic – Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans, also the cult movie “El Topo”
Pictures – Rush' Moving Pictures, ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition, Phish' “A Picture of Nectar”
Crimson – for King Crimson
Lamb's – for Genesis' “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”
Tears – for Marillion's “Script for a Jester's Tear”
1) Andromeda Strange
"42" - reference to "the answer to life, the universe and everything", as revealed by Douglas Adams. This clip ends the meaningless telephone company pre-recorded message that ends the CD, like the heartbeat on "Dark Side of the Moon", or the phrase that begins and ends "The Wall".
Chord changes for this track were influenced by Pink Floyd's "Echoes". Overall sound was influenced by Tangerine Dream, Kraftwork, Jean Michael Jarre, and other 1970's synth/atmospheric work.
The title is a reference to the Michael Crichton novel "The Andromeda Strain".
2) The Infinite Etherealness of Being
The obligatory acoustic guitar piece, part I of a 3-part "suite".
Most notably influenced by Steve Howe of Yes. Listen for the drop-D tuning, country/folk stylings, and the descending run reminiscent of parts of "Mood for a day".
The working title of this piece was simply "Guitar", but it needed a better title reflecting Eastern mysticism and spirituality.
3) Soft Sound Spaces
Our attempt to capture the sound and groove of "The Yes
Album" and "Fragile".
Multi-part high vocal harmonies, heavy Hammond B3, Mellotron washes, busy Bruford-style drum parts, tight bass/guitar riffs, multiple musical sections in odd meter, and of course the self-indulgent layered vocal ending.
The lyrics have so many references that they get their own page. (coming soon)
The title is a twist on "Wurm", the title of the final section of Yes' Starship Troopers. "Slurm" was a futuristic soft drink featured on the animated SF show "Futurama".
The opening bass solo quotes a bass solo from Pink Floyd's Animals.
The synth part was inspired by the synth lead on ELP's "Lucky Man", and the synth and drums ending is an homage to Lucky Man's famous finale.
5) War is Bad, My Father's Dead
Inspired by Roger Waters "dark period" works "THe Final Cut" and the "The Wall", in which the Tortured Artist whines about the fact that his father died in WWII, that no one understands him, and women don't love him.
The song is in two parts: the "Waters" part and the
"Gilmour" part: the yin and yang of Floyd.
Waters' part has the military drums and sparse sound and self-pitying lyrics; Gilmour's part is lush orchestration and the smug pomposity that is the post-Waters Floyd sound.
The guitar solos quote licks from the "Comfortably Numb" guitar solo, and the melody from the opening track on "The Wall". We also snuck in our version of the Comfortably Numb string parts in our guitar solo section.
The lyrics open with a reference to "the machine" (Welcome to the Machine), and wanting to spit (Waters' famous spitting-on-the-audience moment that was allegedly the inspiration for "The Wall"). "So do you think you could tell" (Wish You were here) opens the Gilmour section. "Slice of the pie" (Have a Cigar) and "up there in the sky" (Dark Side of the Moon) and echoey vocals close out the Gilmour section.
"Ooh babe" is of course, classic Waters (The Wall and Final Cut). The bleating on "war is baaaaaad" was inspired by the Animals album. References to Margaret Thatcher (The Final Cut).
6) Please Don't Vomit on the Midgets
Inspired by "Junta" era Phish songs. The ones that change musical style every 30 seconds, last for 8-15 minutes and only have one line of lyrics repeated over and over again. ("David Bowie", "Dinner and Movie", "Divided Sky", "You Enjoy Myself" and others).
The music opens with an ensemble section in major chords and segues into a Stash-like latin section, complete with guitar/keyboard lead line, key change and 'quiet' drum break. The vocals enter with 3 part harmony with "help" from the drummer. (Influenced by "Poor Heart" from the Picture of Nectar CD). The music then drifts into a 4 part "free form" quote fest with bass, piano and guitar all quoting different songs, interlocking but really not playing together very well at all. Quotes include "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "Over the Rainbow", a Bach 2 part invention, and "The Flintstones". Then the band plays part of a quote from "Chopsticks" together, before wandering into a "Divided SKy"-influenced build section that includes yet another quote in the guitar part, this time from the "Jeopardy" music, ending with a bit of "machine gun Trey" with feedback.
Rest period: free form piano solo before the band regroups for the "reggae" section to repeat the 'lyric' before the final big jam, which starts with a "Page" organ solo leading into a guitar solo builds through a classic Phish ascending chromatic structure, into a key change and "big bang", finally ending as the band finishes the quote from "Chopsticks" started earlier in the song (the endings of Phish songs in the "Rift" period).
To make it more "artistic" we translated the title into French.
A mix of sounds and styles: Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Peter Gabriel
8) Pain, Agony, Death and Suffering
Inspired by 80's era King Crimson and Peter Gabriel.
We tried to channel Tony Levin on bass, Robert Fripp on guitar, Adrian Belew on processed vocals, and the marimba/world beat influence of Peter Gabriel's studio work.
The lyrics and song form were influenced by African musician
Fela Kuti and other world beat artists.
The lyrical content is pure Hidden Agenda.
9) Violence is the Answer
Answers the musical question: what if ELP had written music to death metal lyrics?
Opens with the obligatory "free form" piano solo.
The music was influenced by ELP and UK, with the solo section our interpretation of uptight classical musicians trying their best to "rock out", complete with big drums to bring it all home. Meter changes, gratituous overplaying and millions of 32nd note scale runs are an essential ingredient of this little gem.
No prog rock masterpiece would be complete with out a full pipe organ and choir ending. The extremely astute will also notice Philip Glass sub-references in the excessive use of arpeggios in the ending.
10) Also Surf Zarathustra
Wipe Out meets 2001.
11) The Dawn of Time
Originally was the intro to Monolith. Expanded to include sampled voices from the song "Monolith" from the 2001 soundtrack. Influenced by the overture to 2112.
The mandatory Rush tribute, based on the plotline from the movie
"2001 a Space Odyssey".
The music was intended to a be a cross between "2112" and "Bytor and the Snow Dog".
The intro was influenced by 2112, with the synth washes and heavy guitar punches. It also quotes from the original 2001 theme.
No Rush homage would be complete with the sound of the monophonic Moog Taurus bass pedals, with their one octave range. Same for the "just because we can" tuned wood block solo ("The Trees"). The main verses were inspired by the "first person space voyage" lyrics of Cygnus X-I, parts one and two.
The solo section includes lots of space sounds and effects (Bytor and the Snow Dog, Red Barchetta), and plenty of key and meter changes with catchy riffs and scale runs.
Like Cygnus X-I, part 1, Monolith ends with the protagonist disappearing into a mysterious space object - in our case, the monolith.
"My god, it's full of notes" is an obvious reference to the famous line from "2010".
13) Petulant Frenzy
The title is a reference to drummer Terry Bozzio's line in the Zappa song "Punky's Lips", where he announces that he "having a petulant frenzy". This song was originally intended to be a Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment homage, representing more modern prog rock, but we also tied it back to Monolith, as the soundtrack for what the space explorer hears as he's hurtling through the monolith. This is our album's "burner" - that piece in every prog rock band's set where everybody gets to play absolutely as many notes as they can possibly squeeze into every beat.
In the breakdown section (trading fours), the bass player quotes from Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" played at doublespeed. In a normal world, trading fours would end with a big drum break, since the breakdown is bass/guitar/keys/drums/bass/guitar/keys/drums.
So why a recorder solo? Dig up a copy of Michael Nesmith's early video work "Elephant Parts", and you'll see a great gag where Nesmith, dressed as a bum, stands on a street corner playing a recorder (badly). Other musicians gather around him, and the music evolves into a cool jam, which builds until one of the musicians points at Nesmith and says "take it!". Everyone else stops and Nesmith continues plays the same atonal noodling that he was playing at the start of the segment. Then the band comes back in. The recorder solo in Petulant Frenzy is a sub-reference to that Elephant Parts gag. If you caught this particular sub-reference before reading this explanation, give yourself bonus points for hipness.
The ending is intended to imply that the music has all been in the space traveler's head. The ship's computer wakes him up because it can no longer stand the horrible music that he's imagining. He's now on the "other side" of the stargate, in a waking dream.
So what do you do after you wake up? Have breakfast, of course.
Our tribute to Genesis' Supper's Ready was originally to be called "Time to make the donuts", but as Marillion fans a running band in-joke was an image of a overweight Fish, bleating out "cupcakes! someone bring me a cupcake!". And thus our little song about donuts became "Cupcakes".
The music opens with the classic minor-sixth arpeggios that show up in many Gabriel-era Genesis songs, with lyrics loaded with visual imagery, including references to a "musical box" and all sorts of strange animals and spacecraft.
The instrumental section was influenced by "Watcher of the Skies", "In the Cage", and parts of "DUke". The chorus shifts from Genesis to Marillion, with the reference "there's something Fishy about the cupcakes" (Marillon's first lead singer used the stage name Fish), and the lyrics use the familiar Fish themes of bitterness, depression, drinking, etc.
The middle section is Marillion plays Genesis, with "Fish" at his most pompous and desperate.
Just as "Judy, Judy, Judy" is the perfect phrase to imitate Cary Grant's vocal inflections with, so too is "Cupcakes!" perfect for capturing Fish's vocal idiosyncrasies.
All of the lyrics reflect the dysfunctional romantic dynamic of "Punch & Judy," "Emerald Lies," etc.
"The fair maid," "our castle home" Echoes the mock mediaevalism of many early Marillion songs ("Grendel," "Script for a Jester's Tear")
"emerald tears," "empty lies" - "Emerald Lies"
"scattered on my shattered pages" - Fish loves both alliteration and using the ever-popular tortured artist effect.
"The harlequin chases his tail" - Harlequins were featured on Marillion's first three albums, especially Script for a Jester's Tear.
"That's why I'm here, drinking in a bar/ hated, despised, forgotten, drunk, alone" - This pretty much encapsulates the entirety of Clutching at Straws.
"The battered firebrands of a twisted soul's mistakes" - "Jigsaw"
"The spider's sour curds and whey" - Fish's fondness for nursery rhymes, such as at the end of "Forgotten Sons"
" All yesterday's tomorrows/are now tomorrow's tomorrow's todays" - A riff on the perfect meaningless profundity of "Yesterday starts tomorrow/tomorrow starts today" from "Jigsaw"
The ending reflects Fish's love of long, drawn-out riffs on previous lyrics in live concerts. The ending is also an opportunity for more Tony Banks-influenced synth arpeggios as our space traveler is hopelessly lost in a "world of confusion" (yes that's _another_ Genesis reference).
Originally track #15 was to be a cover version of Zappa's Muffin Man - because some people like cupcakes, but I, for one, prefer muffins. It just seemed such an obvious transition that we had to do it, complete with FZ-style what-the-hell-time-signature-is-that-in? marimba heavy abrupt cut and "Shut up and play your guitar" jam. Goodnight, Austin Texas, wherever you are...At the end of 2001, "Dave" is transformed into the StarChild. Did Our Hero become the Muffin Man, aka the Creator of Muffins - and is our universe just one cosmic muffin? We wanted a good rockin jam to end the CD.
To ask permission is to seek denial. We made the mistake of contacting the Zappa estate for official permission to cover Muffin Man - and were denied and told to take our MP3 of our cover version off the website. So don't go buying any more Zappa CDs for us as birthday gifts.
We'd been working on this Led Zeppelin-influenced blues jam, and we came up with the idea of making lyrics out of Zep song titles. So every line of lyrics has at least one, sometimes more, Zep song titles and references buried within. The title refers to both the pentatonic scale and Satanic symbols, both of which were central to Led Zeppelin's success. Zep had their progressive moments: Stairway was 7 minutes long and opened the door to acceptance of longer songs on 70's radio. So its fitting that they get recognized here. Plus the song was just really fun to play.
16) He is Dead (reprise)
But wait, we're not finished. If you didn't figure out that this is a shameless ripoff of the "door slam, walk down the hall, open the door, We Have Heaven (reprise)" from the end of Yes' Fragile, go back five spaces.
Does this mean that Our Hero is dead? Did he go to Hell? Does he finally see that our universe, the cosmic muffin, is Hell?
Who knows. It's deliberately ambiguous, the way all Great Art should be.
Yet another gimmicky ending, complete with classic "Star Trek" soundbite and "found sound" phone company error message, that's incomplete until you restart the whole song cycle.