It Bites is one of those groups whose enamorment with a panoply of the styles possible in rock tended to get them in trouble, the group refusing to nail itself down to a single readily identifiable genre. They issued The Big Lad in the Windmill in 1986, then Once Around the World in '88, both of which are good, sound, if not quite categorizable LPs, before coming out with the spectacular Eat Me in St. Louis in '89, a dynamo that gathered the gents a fanatical following (myself within it)…just before collapse. Though Eat Me never sold like it should have…a curious event considering its very strong reminiscences of both the proggy old Genesis' best days as well as Peter Gabriel's sterling new refrains…the band proved to be a band which could sell out concerts in the UK, US, and Japan, and thus was chosen to tour with Jethro Tull and The Beach Boys (!). Evidence of their high level of live musicianship is had through a listen to 1991's Thank You and Goodnight, which reads through the band's history and is sonic dynamite.
For the next 16 years, all we'd see of them was an anthology and three live issuances. Then 2008 hit and a new line-up produced The Tall Ships, received by critics and fans alike as a near impossible recovery from the departure of vocalist Francis Dunnery (who, it appears, had a rather large ego amongst his apparently prolific baggage). Map, then, is the 3rd release after that, and It Bites has re-assumed some of its eldest airs, eschewn most of the Eat Me slam-bang heavy prog-pop and landed much closer in nature to ensembles like The Flower Kings, with whom they're now label-mates. And when I say the Dunnery vibe has faded, I don't mean it's gone, several songs show clearly that it isn't, but the tone more fits replacement vocalist John Mitchell's less exuberant and more melancholy élan, Flag perhaps best exemplifying this.
In some ways, there's a Marillion trip going on here (and the two bands have toured together). Under Steve Hogarth, Marillion underwent a marked change that nonetheless retained enough of the old trademarks to appease many ruffled fan feathers. The upheaval didn't occur without its backlash, of course, but, frankly, the new groove is just as valid as the old, though decidedly differentiated. 'Sides, who can argue with a singer of Hogarth's talents? Too, Mark Rothery achieved a whole new level of finesse, now grossly, sadly, under-regarded in guitar venues, what with his old, blatant, constant heavysiding eschewn. Ah well, the conservative yet live among us, but things happen for a reason, changes occur, not everyone remains aship, and thus It Bites is now, like Marilion, in its new incarnation. As with Hogarth & Co., the band's far more symphonic; unlike Marillion, though not entirely so, there's still a LOT of the old slam bang here, which will please consumers within the new home label (Inside Out / Century Media). In sum, the band's overall bent is decidedly more progressive, no two ways about it, even to the extent of Map of the Past being a concept album, and I, for one, am overjoyed to see 'em still at it. Prog more than ever has had a rough road over the last couple decades, and it can't afford to lose any of its golden acts.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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