For me, a 10/10 rating means something very specific. So, before we begin the review, kindly suffer me to explain my criteria for a 10/10 album.
1: A 10/10 album is one I cannot complain about for any reason. If I were the producer, I would say, “Yes, this is a finished product and there is nothing I would change if I were you.”
2: A 10/10 album is one that I will continue to listen to for years to come.
3: A 10/10 album is one that inspires me to seek out the artist’s back catalogue and heartily recommend the artist in the real world.
I’m happy to announce that Shineback’s latest album, Dial, meets each of those requirements! For those who don’t know, Shineback is the solo project of Simon Godfrey, brother to Jem Godfrey of Frost* and guitarist and singer for Tinyfish. This album features infectious pop melodies, great singing, and a wide array of electronic sounds. Let’s dive into this great piece of modern prog-rock.
The first song, “Lies And Consequences,” starts the album off with a bang. Guest drummer Henry Rogers opens up with some epic drum fills before the song segues into a catchy progressive pop piece. The song is nearly 12 minutes long but you’d never guess from listening to it. It doesn’t feel long and not a moment is wasted. “I Love You From Memory” is a ballad with great lyrics and complex instrumentation. If I were to pick a “lead single” from this record, this would be my choice. It’s an ideal blend of creative electronic work and heartfelt playing and singing, a line this album walks perfectly. It closes with a keyboard solo, courtesy Joe Cardillo, that would make Rick Wakeman proud.
Next up is my favorite track on the album, “Consider Her Ways,” an infectious hard rocker that features arguably Godfrey’s best vocal work on the album! His electronic work is also a perfect fit for the song. Dec Burke pulls off an epic guitar solo that reminds me of some of Eddie Van Halen’s best moments before it shifts into a great variation on the chorus. It’s an awesome song. The next song, “Dial,” is a truly satisfying epic in the prog tradition. It begins with some fantastic piano work and a mysterious, melancholy melody (accented by equally mysterious, melancholy lyrics). After the second chorus, it leads into a beautiful, piano-driven interlude that seems to foreshadow disaster in spite of its beauty. It gradually becomes heavier and more foreboding, as the guitar, bass and drums grow louder and more prevalent. It finally reaches the hard-rocking climax. “Here I Am” is the most intense track on the album, featuring heavy, dissonant sounds and a disturbing spoken word piece by Godfrey’s Tinyfish bandmate, Robert Ramsay.
“The Gentleman” is next, and the safety and comfort of the old-fashioned telephone sounds that begin it is such a sharp contrast to the impending doom of “Here I Am” that I wonder if “Dial” is supposed to be a concept album. I don’t think it is, but the flow of the album is absolutely gorgeous, especially here. “The Gentleman” is a relaxing, almost happy song with a lush, atmospheric arrangement reminiscent of early Yes and Genesis. It’s a breath of fresh air after the intensity of the last few songs. “Me vs. Me” is the purest pop song on the record, and features not only one of Godfrey’s catchiest beats but some of his best lyrics. If it were up to me, this song would be a number one hit.
“Without Words” is another great, shorter song, and one of the more electronic tracks on the album. “Let Her Sleep” features Ray Weston on vocals and is far and away the heaviest song on Dial, almost to the point of being metal. The dissonant, dark chorus seems to beg you to air-drum, and the atmospheric middle section featuring a rare Godfrey guitar solo provides a nice change of pace. “My New Reward” is an unbelievably catchy modern pop song that includes more than meets the eye. It leads into the closing track perfectly.
“Kill Devil Hills” is the longest track on the album and begins with some very unusual, Crimson-esque guitar and keyboard chords. After a catchy first section, it shifts into a gradually building, electronics-based interlude. At the six-minute mark or so, this subdued song starts going completely off the rails, getting faster and faster as Matt Stevens’ guitar solo gets more and more intense. It finally reaches a climax and suddenly turns into a slow piano ballad. This section of the song almost functions as a fully complete song on its own, developing on themes and ideas independent from the rest of the track. Finally, we get our last guitar solo of the album, which is my personal favorite! The last section of “Kill Devil Hills” is a relaxed, atmospheric finale, which closes out the proggy insanity of Dial perfectly. It’s an immensely satisfying song which will please any prog fan.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is 21st Century prog. Very few artists have managed to successfully blend the sound of the present decade with a progressive ethos and the soul of classic prog, but Simon Godfrey has done it seamlessly. Yes, it’s electronic music. No, not everyone will like it. Not everyone liked Chuck Berry’s electric guitar. Not everyone liked Rick Wakeman’s synthesizers. The only real danger with technology is that often, the music loses some of its soul. This is not the case with Dial. I’m super excited about this album and I’m looking forward to seeing what this talented composer will do next!