When I first came across 3rDegree some years ago, I said that they reminded me a great deal of the long-lost City Boy, and it was interesting to hear how much of an impact they had had on the band. However, Robert James Pashman (bass, keyboards, backing vocals – and who is also responsible for getting me drinking Trappist-style beers) later informed me that none of them had heard of the band, and it was only after reading reviews mentioning them as an influence that they sought them out! Having given maximum marks to their previous three albums (I’ve only noticed that although I have their 1993 debut I’ve never reviewed it, must amend that at some point), I was looking forward to hearing this 2015 release. But, it arrived while I was working on my book, so ended up in the never-ending backlog. However, with the arrival in 2018 of the second part of the concept, it allows me to review them back to back (and thankfully the guys have been very understanding).
What we have here is a science fiction concept album, set in the fairly near future, where it is possible to live forever or be enhanced in some ways. It is the mix between the human and the machine, the analog and the digital, that makes the story what it is. Although all the lyrics are contained in the digipak, it is easy to understand the storyline without them due to the wonderfully clear vocals of singer George Dobbs, and the fact that they allow the story to tell itself. No need for complex analogies, let’s get to it: my only complaint is that I found it quite distracting while driving, as I would rather listen to what was going on instead of paying attention to the road. We may not have many drivers down here, but our roads aren’t exactly straight and wide.
Musically we are firmly back in the realms of City Boy, with an additional UK band that may surprise many, 10 CC. It took me ages to work out what the harmonies and key changes reminded me of, and then I realized it was like listening to parts of ‘Deceptive Bends’. Added to this surreal pop/rock/prog mix they have added plenty of Utopia for good measure, and come up with something that is instantly 3rDegree, instantly accessible, and guaranteed to make the listener sit there with a massive smile on their face. The one song I found most interesting was “We Regret To Inform You”, which includes the robotic voice of Valhalla Biotech explaining that there has been a slight issue with the recent procedure on the protagonist’s father. I can’t say any more than that without giving away the plot, but coming from an IT background this song really did appeal to my inner geek, and it works incredibly well. Add to that some beautifully phased and treated rock guitar and it is a total delight.
3rDegree probably isn’t a name that too many people recognize from the progressive scene, but as I write this, this album is rated as being #6 on the charts for 2015 releases on ProgArchives. Looking at what is above it, all I can say is that it is in the wrong position, as it should be #1. Absolutely essential, crossover progressive rock doesn’t get any better than this.