The reviews for the Wedge were much more favourable than for its predecessor and the band seemed to have at last stamped out its own identity, and surely there was no stopping them now........
PALLAS 'The Wedge' (EMI SHVL 850) KKKKK
There can be few bands who have managed to assemble their musical influences and achieve an entirely revitalised identity after a major setback. Pallas have.
Watching Pallas change has been a genuine buzz for me. The first live shows featuring new vocalist Alan Reed prompted a previously unthinkable switch from overlong and complex 20minute epics to more malleable altogether sharper statements devoid of awkward lyrical content and heralding far more human and thoroughly believable experiences. So what does 'The Wedge" now tell us?
Whatever it is, and somehow I get the feeling there's a good deal of humour wrapped up here the band certainly aren't afraid to gamble and risk what ground they've already gained. Initially, you'll notice that things are a lot harder-the guitars of Niall Mathewson are especially wild and peppered with all kinds of blistering extravaganzas.
Not only is the sound a lot heavier but there's not a moment wasted. No exceptions. 'Throwing Stones At The Wind' the current single, is a convenient example, featuring a monumental guitar riff and lyrics that capture real mystery, yet the instrumental complexity within the main framework gives surprising, sometimes amusing, results. Two spins and the effect is deadly. Play it again and you'll never get it off the turntable.
'The Executioner' and 'A Million Miles Away' revolve around hard rock riffs (check out the guitar action in the latter), but are complex in construction and derive a lot of their success from Ronnie Brown's deft keyboard touches (Styx, Kansas, Starcastle Simple Minds, Go West . . . you know the score). 'Dance Thru' The Fire' circumnavigates middle ground, entering on a mass of heavy rock pandemonium and slipping half way into a willing mid-pocket groove.
Lower down the volume scale there's the entirely fitting naivete of 'Win Or Lose' to chew on or the obvious highpoint 'Just A Memory'; constructed on an ethereal drum pattern and fully exploiting Alan's unique voice. This song is certainly a classic. 'Rat Racing' is perhaps the nearest you'll come to material from 'The Sentinel'- it's long very complex and saved through the application of clever atmospheric twiddly bits (mostly screaming guitar).
Undoubtedly, a degree of' The Wedge's success is due to the production skills of Mick Glossop (the man responsible for the last Waterboys LP). Equating noise with emotion in a manner only previously exploited within Yes' '90125'LP, Glossop has led Pallas through the shadowy half-light of the last few months to an open platform where they can now claim to be in no particular category whatsoever. The Ace Place.
PALLAS 'The Wedge' (EMI SHVL 850) ****
PROGRESSIVE ROCK? The very words used to stick in the throat like two fingers and the music in question had the same stimulative effect. However, during comparatively blissful post 'Topographic Oceans' years, 'prog rock' (gag) has undergone the once unthinkable. It's progressed. And into the '80s, too!
Pallas, although they're probably reluctant to accept the 'progressive' tag wholesale, typify the new, brighter and more intriguing face of this revitalised genre. At its best, 'The Wedge' is marvellously atmospheric, the beautiful, frosted synth melodies of 'Rat-Racing' and 'Just A Memory' being of particular note.
There are no overlong epics or twee lyrics, and pompous, meandering interludes have been cut to a bare minimum. In place of such leaden excess baggage come lighter, more tasteful keyboards, snappy rhythms (when needed) and stirringly good guitar work. Just occasionally a song winds up dead from exhaustive soloing, when every individual gets their oar in regardless of whether the track could best do without it, but that's a fairly rare occurrence and only a minor gripe.
This LP certainly isn't what I'd anticipated. Pallas brushed aside my natural aversion to their kind of music with remarkable ease, and 'The Wedge 'will doubtless melt a good many more icy receptions in the future. Try it out.
Pallas - The Wedge - (Harvest)
Although they'd fiercely contest the fact, it's evident that Pallas are that dreaded commodity, a progressive rock band. However they've a distinct modern flavour.
Like Marillion, they're capable of the occasional flash of brilliance, but whereas Derek Dick and company fish around in pools of early Genesis the Pallas sound is far more contemporary.
"Win Or Lose' and the current single 'Throwing Stones At The Wind' both suggest that we'll be hearing more of this lot in the future.
No.1 (a "pop" magazine)
PALLAS: The Wedge. Harvest SHVL 850.
Producer: Mick Glossop.
Stirring, good quality pomp from the act whose debut LP The Sentinel nudged the Top 40. The Wedge is far classier, more melodic and less ponderous than its predecessor and should gain a wider audience, especially as it features the infectious single, Throwing Stones At The Wind (which could be followed by either Dance Through The Fire or Win Or; Lose). A two-month tour progresses through February and March. Labelmates Marillion cracked open the market which is ready for others to join. Top 50.
MUSIC WEEK (UK Music trade - paper)