Is it really five years since Simon Godfrey (Tinyfish, Valdez) presented us with the debut Shineback album? Unlike the debut this isn’t a concept, but is very much a progression in terms of ideas and approach. “We humans do a marvellous job of failing to communicate with one another, often when it matters most”, says Simon. “All the songs on ‘Dial’ carry that as an underlying theme. Musically, very much like the debut album and last year’s ‘Minotaur’ EP, the new record seeks to hop the fences between genres, just to enjoy the process of getting dirty while in the hunt for buried sonic treasures”. Alongside Simon’s regular writing partner (and label mate) Robert Ramsay, guests returning from ‘Rise Up Forgotten…’ include Matt Stevens (The Fierce & The Dead), Dec Burke (Frost*, AudioPlastik, Darwin’s Radio), Hywel Bennett (Dec Burke Band) and Henry Rogers (Touchstone, Mostly Autumn). New collaborators Tom Slatter, Daniel Zambas (We Are Kin), Karl Eisenhart (Pinnacle) and Simon’s bandmates in Valdez Joe Cardillo and Tom Hyatt are also involved. There are quite a few people taking part, but normally this is just for one song (not all on the same one), so while there are five guest guitarists adding to proceedings, Matt and Karl combine on “Kill Devil Hills”, while Tom Slatter is just on “Here I Am” and Hywel is on the title track, while Dec allows himself some real attack on “Consider Her Ways” so it isn’t really a guitar fest.
What really makes this work is the deftness and lightness of approach, with Simon using plenty of keyboards to create an environment for his vocals and ideas to really shine. There are times when the music is very much in a light, high register with virtually no bottom end, but this contrasts against a rocky approach, with the feeling that we are back in the early Eighties and synth-based power pop is the order of the day. Just listen to “Consider Her Ways” and I can guarantee that you will soon be singing along with the chorus and petitioning Chief Elephant to get this released as a single. This is an album which is just plain fun to listen to, and Simon firmly nails his prog credentials to the wall by closing the album with one song that is more than twenty-six minutes long, and one that goes past thirteen. In many ways it is a very modern album, also looking back into the Eighties and Nineties, bringing together multiple commercial styles with pop and prog to create something that is a load of fun, and never takes itself too seriously. The delicate emotional piano of the title song counterpoints what has gone before, and if ever an album deserves multiple plays it is this one as every time I have listened to it I have gained something else. When the debut album was released, BEM was very much in its infancy, but now is easily one of the most important prog labels around, so let’s hope that this release gains the kudos and publicity it deserves, as this is a delight.
8/10 by Kev Rowland