SPOCK'S BEARD — The Kindness of Strangers (review)

SPOCK'S BEARD — The Kindness of Strangers album cover Album · 1998 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Warthur
The Kindness of Strangers is the album where Spock's Beard don't quite go pop, but don't put such an emphasis on keeping the prog dial turned to 11 all the time. It had been apparent at least since Beware of Darkness that Neal Morse and company had a healthy respect for the 1960s psych-pop forefathers of prog, and for its middle run of shorter songs the band seem to dip into the sunny world of that pop era and save the prog workouts for the longer pieces which bookend the album.

Part of this may well be motivated by the desire to make the band a viable commercial unit going forwards - the plethora of radio edits available as bonus tracks on some editions of the album attest to that. Then again, Kansas - whose influence had always been part of the early Spock's Beard sound - also navigated a territory between full-on prog and prog-tinged pop, so whilst this gear shift might not be to the taste of listeners who'd prefer Spock's Beard to more consistently lean into their prog side, it's not a totally out of left field direction for the band to take.

As it stands, they aren't bad at it - though equally, they aren't great. Of the first three Spock's Beard studio albums, this is probably my least favourite. That doesn't mean it's bad - it's usually entertaining, June is genuinely beautiful, and you do get a sense of the band continuing to evolve their sound, which is welcome and necessary. At the same time, I wouldn't prioritise it above The Light or Beware of Darkness.
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