FAME Review: The Chocolate Horse - Beasts
The Chocolate Horse - Beasts


The Chocolate Horse

Available from Stable Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Right off the bat, you understand you're dealing with a non-standard aggregate of musicians as Beasts launches into a march with flute and muted guitar slowly emerging from a lucidly misty background. The effect's chamber orchestral, and Jason Snell's pained but reflective singing voice is akin to Robert Wyatt's in a Drake-ian milieu arranged by Gregory Leigh, changing in the very next cut to a killer Jack Bruce timbre in a cut reprising the literate hauteur of Cream's several ventures (Pressed Rat and Warthog, Tales of Brave Ulysses, etc.) amid Bruce's magnificent Songs for a Tailor—Felix Pappalardi a heavy influence in all cases, we should note. In fact, Snell recalls many of Felix's sadly under-appreciated virtues, always crafting mature, complicated, perfectly cohered but strange environments rife with mysterious side pockets. The Chocolate Horse's front man's background and education are impossible to locate, but it wouldn't be a bit surprising to find he's a Julliard or Berklee graduate.

Or not. Some people are just naturally over-talented, with a perspicacity that here extends to his choice of band members, each one sewing himself perfectly into the fabric of the Byronically melancholy Beasts. There are bright-ish moments, as in All of You, with Snell's voice softly ringing out like Colin Blunstone's in an Odyssey and Oracle outtake, but the overall effect is of Renaissance sensibilities, a pride in upleveled thinking and craftsmanship. Few bands have ever attempted this fulsome an approach, an orchestral miasma that shifts and melancholically heaves, breathing with life and lament. Don't ever get too comfortable while laying a listen to this museum piece because storm clouds are ever bulking on the horizon and the atmosphere is too electric to risk. More than once I was reminded of The Tea Party's eloquently ominous backscatter, geographies full-blooded with pensivity and alarm, peopled with cultures approaching The End of The Era with no avenue of escape, beasts indeed, just as we're not far from becoming.

This CD is not a collection of pop songs, an attempt to crash the charts, or an end run around Broadway with a facile concept cycle lauding some over the top remix of a newly re-bourgeoised myth (God save us from another Phantom of the Opera!), but instead genuine art designed to reveal what the human mind and hand is capable of while painting a deeper canvas amid the darker recesses mass consciousness refuses to acknowledge. It also stubbornly resuscitates a timeless mode that pretty much guarantees it'll be ignored at first, ruminated upon later, and finally, far after its creators' demise as a functioning unit, be hailed as a lost classic. Creativity of this magnitude almost never survives the market or the monkey shenanigans, the escapism, of the indoctrinated lemming agenda. It's one of the more perverse attributes of being alive and awake in the crass cultural funeral we call society: the people never ring the bell, they only hear its echo...and we know what Hemingway had to say about that.

Track List:

  • Escape all Responsibility
  • Fool's Gold
  • Found Another Way
  • Lasso Lasso
  • All about You
  • Make it Up Tonight
  • The Sahara
  • Terrible Lies
  • Characters of Egypt
  • Drive your Stake
No credits for song-writing given.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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