Monday, August 30, 2010

Egg—The Polite Force (Decca/Esoteric)

Egg’s second album, The Polite Force (1971), saw them maturing on all fronts. They’re far more focused and heavy. The album has only four tracks, with none of the quirky filler interludes from the first album. Once again, everything is good humoured and down to earth even as the band churn away with great complexity. Save the philosophy and mythology for Genesis and Yes—Egg were more concerned with having a high-minded good time. The classical reinterpretations from the first album are gone (save for a bit of Bach heard in “Boilk”) in favour of concentrating on their own identity. Mont Campbell’s vocal style is still ultra-sauve, but more even keeled. “A Trip to Newport Hospital” is apparently the most beloved track on the album, and I can hear why. The intro riff is right doomy, as prog goes—almost as if it’s sprung from Iommi’s mangled fingers, mashing down on organ keys rather than against that maroon SG (there’s some more of that fuzz in “Long Piece No. 3”)—before it traipses off into jazzier realms. It’s a big comfy couch of a song; a vibe that comes to mind when people discuss the Canterbury sound—an easy-going, nostalgic aura created by young men for whom nostalgia seems a premature mindset. “Contrasong” is a punchy jigsaw of a tune, embellished by a horn section stabbing at the accents. “Boilk” is a rather indulgent 9-minute collage of field recordings, found sound, mellotron noodling, and feedback. Those were the times, man. “Long Piece No. 3” which takes up the entire second half of the album, is where Egg really flex their muso muscles. This dazzling, disorienting exercise actually has several very accessible, catchy nuggets scattered amongst the riff salad. It sounds like Egg weren’t pursuing dreams so much as transcribing, then performing them. It was all too much for Decca, who begrudgingly released The Polite Force after sitting on the tapes for several months. After that, the game was up for Egg for the time being. The trio moved on to separate projects (the Egg family tree encompasses The Groundhogs, Khan, Hatfield and the North, National Health, and Neil from The Young Ones!) before reuniting for 1973’s The Civil Surface.