|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Terry Brown|
|Record Label: Inside Out||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: Tiles|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 53:12|
Detroit, Michigan based Tiles can trace its history back to 1993 to a joining between guitarist Chris Herin, vocalist Paul Rarick, drummer Mark Evans and bassist Jeff Whittle. Tile’s first CD, a self-titled release on Polydor Records from 1995, preceded the group’s 1997 sophomore effort Fence The Clear. Presence Of Mind (an excellent album which led to a European tour with Dream Theater) followed two years later before the band put out Window Dressing in 2004. Tiles again took a five year break only to return in the winter of 2008 with its most recent work, the Terry Brown produced – and another creative play on words – Fly Paper.
On Fly Paper Tiles continues to stay true to its roots by giving us (in the bands own words) "a blend of progressive rock complexity and soaring vocal melodies with an aggressive hard rock edge”. This is best demonstrated on lengthy progressive based tracks such as the three part “Markers” (6:56), sublime “Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds” (8:09) and Rush influenced “Hide And Seek” (8:31). The progressive touches found on “Hide In My Shadows” and “Sacred & Mundane” (this one finds Alex Lifeson of Rush making a guest appearance) prove equally notable as does the straightforward hard rock of “Landscape”. All around, Tiles showcases a sound certain to appeal to fans of Rush, Shadow Gallery, Flagship, Fall Of Echoes, Orphan Project, Kansas and Neal Morse. Those whose tastes stray towards progressive metal – Dream Theater, Amaran’s Plight and Suspyre come to mind – would do themselves a favor by checking out Tiles as well.
Paul Rarick brings an immaculate and smooth vocal style that occasionally hints at Geddy Lee, which, of course, helps lend to the groups musical comparison to Rush. Guitarist Chris Herin exhibits his versatility in bestowing just the right amount of rhythm, lead and acoustic guitar. It must be noted that the majority of the albums compositions are tastefully laced with an acoustic guitar, a particular which serves to enhance the quality of the music here. “Hide & Seek” does the best job reflecting Herin’s soloing abilities (real bluesy feel on this one). The band, otherwise, makes effective use of its instrumental sound throughout, especially on more progressive tracks along the lines of “Markers” and “Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds”.
Production values fail to disappoint with a clean sounding mix allowing all the instrumentation – specifically the bass and lead guitar – to evenly stand out.
Tiles defines its lyrical approach as “observational” or of a “human experience” quality. Herin, the bands primary lyricist, offered the following in a 2004 interview with HM Magazine: “But my lyrics provide the point of intersection as they tend to reflect biblical principles and philosophy.”
Fly Paper gets underway with two of its better tracks in “Hide In My Shadows” and “Sacred & Mundane”.
“Hide In My Shadow” gets underway to an instrumental introduction carried by an up-tempo blend of rhythm guitar and bass. Settling down to an acoustic guitar prior to its first verse, the song slowly flows ahead until the rhythm guitar returns to lead the way to a catchy chorus backed by an underlining trace of organ. A very nice melody driven track in which the near perfect joining of the acoustic and electric is established. Lyrically, “Hide In My Shadows” comes across introspective:
Hide in my shadows
Deep within my wounds
Hide in my shadow
Brick by brick
I build my tomb
Sacred & Mundane”, a piece in which Alex Lifeson (Rush) makes a guest appearance, is one of the albums more guitar driven. The song actually opens quietly prior to the rhythm guitar stepping forward, pushing things ahead in motivated fashion until an airy chorus laced with an acoustic guitar is achieved. Lifeson, as one would expect, makes his presence felt throughout a two minute guitar driven instrumental section. In the end, this one puts in place a bottom heavy – almost blues based – environs.
The six minute “Back & Forth” is one of the few tracks here which I struggle to get into. The song actually flows quite well during its verse portions to a crisp rhythm and acoustic guitar. Upon tapering off for its laid back chorus, however, “Back & Forth” falls a bit flat as backing vocals with too much of a Beatle-esque feel make their presence felt. The lyrics to “Back & Forth” reflect upon feelings of discontent and indecision:
Always longing for a place I’m not
It has a stronger pull
That what I’ve got
Indecision builds a bigger mess
More is more but finally more is less
Things return to a hard rocking direction with “Landscape”. The song starts to a quick drum solo before launching into a driving guitar riff, the fixed momentum sustained as it urges to a hard hitting chorus standing in alignment with the boisterous scene. A brief but intensely driven instrumental section adds the perfect touch. The lyrical direction here focuses on not dwelling on the past:
Sleeping deep inside
I’m drifting through the weeds
Sweeping up the ashes
Of these broken dreams
Looking to the past
To glance at all that might have been
In between the unseen sins
I’m believing & deceiving myself
I can’t keep carrying memories around
“Markers” can best be described as a seven minutes progressive rocker that breaks down into three different parts. Part One, which covers the songs first two minutes, is upheld by an acoustic guitar and short stretch of quietly played lead guitar. Part Two suddenly picks up the pace to a weighty rhythm guitar, a hard rocking scene founded as a chorus on the terse side of things is joined by an instrumental section featuring a calmly delivered guitar solo. As “Markers” reaches its five minute mark it transitions to Part Three, another instrumentally driven episode that takes things to their close to a pronounced bass line.
“Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds” gives us an eclectic taste of progressive hard rock. A jazz flavored instrumental opening – backed by occasional traces of vocal harmonies – covers the songs first two and a half minutes. An acoustic guitar makes its presence felt as “Dragons… “ attains its first verse, initiative gradually building until the rhythm guitar steps forward to back a chorus repeated twice in a sublime manner:
Dragons, dreams & daring deeds
Helps me cope with insecurity
The song returns to its instrumental ways to a run of radiant lead guitar.
“Crowded Emptiness” is another track which falls a bit flat. While better than “Back & Forth”, this one still lacks that extra element of initiative and energy the albums better material brings to the table (compare the vibe here to “Hide In My Shadows” or “Markers”). Still, the song is well constructed and I can see how others might get into it, though in my opinion the band puts its best foot forward elsewhere. “Crowded Emptiness” is aptly named:
I lift my head
I clear my thoughts
And listen for words of saving grace
I’m letting go of all the skeletons I chase
We can co-exist… Living in the Crowded Emptiness
“Hide & Seek”, at just under nine minutes the lengthiest piece on Fly Paper, showcases a creative Rush influenced sound (time changes galore on this one- too numerous to go into adequate detail). Moving forward at an upbeat tempo from the start, the song is accentuated by a groove flavored riff only to carefully decelerate for a tastefully done chorus shored up by polished backing vocals. What stands out most about “Hide & Seek” is the instrumental portions covering its final three minutes as Chris Herin exhibits his bluesy abilities on lead guitar (all the while the bass guitar makes its presence felt in the background). I might describe apathy as the subject matter to “Hide & Seek”:
Floating in the sea
Random currents moving me
If I don’t care
I will go somewhere
Weathered and worn… Creased and torn
Creased and torn… Understanding comes too late
Closing things out is the three minute piano based instrumental “Passing Notes”.
My overall feeling is that on Fly Paper Tiles has outdone its previous work, Window Dressing (an album I find on the bland side of things), but have not quite reached the heights it set on Presence Of Mind (an album which ranks in my personal top 25). That said, Fly Paper proves musically solid in serving to highlight the bands strengths in the areas of instrumental prowess and thought provoking lyrics. On the other hand, I wish the album were a bit more consistent – I hit the skip button once or twice – and included a few more tracks. My advice? You would do yourself a favor by getting Fly Paper AND Presence Of Mind.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Hide In My Shadow” (5:43), “Sacred & Mundane” (5:26), “Back & Forth” (6:02), “Landscape” (4:31), “Markers” (6:58), “Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds” (8:09, “Crowded Emptiness” (4:08), “Hide & Seek” (8:53), “Passing Notes” (3:16)
Paul Rarick – Lead Vocals
Chris Herin – Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo & Keyboards
Jeff Whittle – Bass
Mark Evans – Drums
Alex Lifeson - Guitars
Matthew Parmenter – Organ
Hugh Syme – Keyboards, orchestration & choir