IT BITES - The Tall Ships

It Bites - The Tall Ships

11 songs
69:37 minutes
***** ***


It Bites made headlines in the mid-Eighties with their pop charts hit Calling All The Heroes, preventing them from ever getting a serious foothold in the prog scene. I discovered them only years after they had broken up in the late Eighties, surprised that there was so much more to them than just radio compatible pop music. Last year, It Bites reunited, replacing original vocalist Francis Dunnery with John Mitchell of Arena and Kino fame. After a self-released live album, the band also recruited a new bass player, so that only the drummer and keyboarder of the initial It Bites are left. Therefore it does not come as a surprise that The Tall Ships sounds like a happier Kino, because the vocals are often what marks a band. It Bites still continue though their quirky take at prog pop, which becomes obvious from the start with the opener Oh My God with its exaggerated choirs. The following Ghosts has a cheesy Eighties atmosphere that feels essentially self-ironic, just like the ballad Playground that is delivered with way too much pathos. But don’t worry, I don’t mean any of this in a negative sense. Instead of doing it, It Bites are overdoing it constantly, transforming The Tall Ships into some kind of guilty pleasure, rehashing Eighties rooted pop kitsch with an overblown prog production, and never even feeling in the least embarrassed. Most songs have normally long running times, only the eight minute long The Wind That Shakes The Barley is a more classical progressive rock song, reminding of Yes mostly due to the backing vocals. The concluding This Is England with its more than thirteen minutes is a worthy finale although it feels sometimes bloated just to give the album one longer song.

The Tall Ships suffers maybe a little from its length, especially towards the end, the band seems to be running out of ideas. It is still a pleasant comeback album of a band that was always much better than its reputation, and even if their new vocalist gives them a somewhat different musical identity, It Bites have comfortably settled down in a carefree sounding prog niche that is a welcome diversion to this genre which too often takes itself too seriously.

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