Fukushima Surfer Boys by Trojan HorseRelease date: October 13, 2017
Label: Bad Elephant
Whilst the very definition of progressive rock is music that progresses beyond its original form, very few of the classic bands of the first wave never really did progress. This has led to a curious situation where the word prog(ressive) rock and progressive music have become almost two separate ideas. One only needs to visit the forums of any number of prog rock bands to find a seismic gulf between those who lean towards their favourite bands reaching out for new sounds, and those who yearn for the same old music. The term “progressive” becomes almost anathema (yes, see what I did there) to people of a certain disposition. Thankfully, this hasn’t seemed to reach a new breed of contemporary artists such as Trojan Horse who very much sign up to the notion of music that progresses beyond it’s original sound.
By some quirk of fate it’s interesting to note that on new album, Fukushima Surfer Boys, Trojan Horse have gathered three guests from three very different periods of prog. Between Pete Trewavas (Marillion), Jimi Goodwin (Doves and solo) and Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld), they have brought together almost three generations of prog bands into one mix. What is truly progressive is that you will be hard-pressed to recognise any of their work on here as they too have signed up for what is the TH version of real progressive music.
Enough about progression though, and what of the music itself though? Trojan Horse have always carried something of a psychedelic streak within them but here they seem to throw their past sound completely out the window in favour of a more ambient electronic route. That’s not to say there aren’t any moments of out and out skronky rock and one listen to ‘The Modern Apothecary’ will set your mind at rest, but it is in songs such as ‘The Ebb C/W Solotron’ that you get to see a new side of this quite remarkable band. Sounding as if they have been channeling The Orb through Sun Ra, they cast aside any notions of normality within their music (like they ever really had that?!) and head for a more esoteric approach. It’s quite frankly amazing.
As if that isn’t enough, it’s during the moments when they suddenly turn pop like on the Tears For Fears inflected ‘I Wanna See My Daddy’ that you start to realise that maybe Steven Wilson wasn’t that crazy earlier this year when he managed to piss off a huge contingent of his fans. It’s this bravery to adopt new ideas and forms into your music that makes for contemporary prog to be so interesting and exciting. It’s not all like this unfortunately, and many bands still remain within that “classic” idea. There is hope out there though, often in the strangest of places.
Fukushima Surfer Boys drifts by like some strange surreal dream at times, always pulling you in with it’s slick melodies and unusual turns. The music is such that, although it is supremely crafted and technical, it never feels like it is testing you. It almost feels like it is taking you by the hand and leading through its strange little world. You feel gently ushered along as the music drifts from extreme ambience, outright pop, freak out jazz moments and skronky guitars. The whole becomes a mutated beast of wonderful music, the kind that makes you realise that there are still bands out there who are unafraid to take chances and willing to progress in every sense of the word. It wouldn’t be too far wrong to suggest that this may be one of the essential albums of the year, both in the progressive community and outside.