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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Track-by-Track: The Ark - In Full Regalia

It would be pointless to try and pretend that I can be objective about an Ark album. They are, as anyone who reads this blog knows, my favorite band. That being said, In Full Regalia was the first Ark album that I didn't love right off the bat. Unashamedly retro, it's a pretty substantial shift in sound for the guys, and threw me off at first. Luckily, the album's a grower. It remains a collection of consistently good tracks, even if nothing on here comes close to the band's best moments.

1. Take A Shine To Me - An Abba pastiche, plain and simple. The guys came close to this in 2007 with The Worrying Kind, but this is Abba through and through, adding a healthy dose of Beach Boys style harmonies. It's an upbeat, fun way to start the album... though it's a very different sound for them. 9/10

2. Superstar - It's my least favorite Ark single to launch an album, though still miles ahead of most bands. The aggressive guitar riff remains the highlight. Ola's vocals border on shrill here, though, which is a general complaint I have about the album as a whole. He's one of my favorite rock vocalists of all time, so I'm actually surprised to be saying that. 8/10

3. Stay With Me - The first big ballad, it has an odd sound to it. Reminds me a bit of an old standard. Very cinematic, but also intimate and genuinely touching. Ola's lower register makes a welcome reappearance in the first half, which is really quite beautiful. 8/10

4. Singin' 'Bout The City - The closest thing on the album to a future Ark classic, this sounds so unlike them, yet really works. It functions as the centerpiece to the album, a song-suite that manages to cram elements of disco, country, 70's rock and classical music into five minutes. The lyrics are great, the theatrical interlude is fantastic, and the ambition is there. The best track, for sure. 10/10

5. Have You Ever Heard A Song - This has grown more grandiose since we first heard the "acoustic" version. Taking cues from gospel, this rootsy ballad grows and grows until it hits a beautiful climax. It's simple, hymn-like, and the best ballad on the album. 9/10

6. Publicity Seeking Rockers - Total 70's glam about bands that are more concerned with tabloids and image than actual music. This one took awhile to grow on me, but once it did I was quite hooked. They've really mastered that early to mid-70's "glitter rock" sound. 9/10

7. I'll Have My Way With You, Frankie - Definitely the hardest sounding track the band have recorded since breaking out. It's an intense blend of chugging guitar and rapid-fire lyrics that's miles away from what we're used to from the Ark. It's an experiment that works, for sure. 10/10

8. All Those Days - I never thought I'd describe an Ark track as "dirge-like," but this 70's acid-trip of a ballad definitely fits the description. I think I would have loved it as a b-side, or even album-closer, but it cuts the energy placed where it is. it sounds like a Doors tribute song. Unexpected, and I'm not sure if it's a good thing. 7/10

9. Hygiene Squad - Jeez this is a strange little album, and this may be the strangest track of all. It's another flashback to what they used to call "junkshop glam." It's a genre I'm quite fond of, and the Ark do it justice. But the lyrics here are WEIRD. 9/10

10. The Red Cap - Which brings me to the last track. I'm trying to decipher the lyrics here, and if there's some meaning (historical?) that I'm not intelligent enough to be extracting from them. Regardless, this is actually one of my favorite tracks on the album. Maybe it's because it sounds the most like the old Ark. It's straightforward, with emphasis on melody. That's all I ask! 10/10

Album Grade: 8.9/10

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10 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

I don't know whether to be disappointed that it's not a ten out of ten album, or disappointed FOR YOU that it's not a ten out of ten album. My copy hasn't arrived yet, but i;'m quite excited by some of the songs... Now, I need your views on Gravitonas!

3:12 AM  
Anonymous Ark Army said...

Great review Nick. Strangely this album needs to grow on me too (my all time favorite is still State of the Ark), but I think after a few times listening, I’ll get there.

What I liked right of the bat was: Stay with Me (love how he starts out low and ends with a high voice). Singin’ ‘bout the City & Take A Shine To Me.

What still needs to grow on me is: Superstar, Have You Ever Heard A Song, Publicity Seeking Rockers & I’ll Have My Way with you Frankie (sorry that one is just a little too hard for me).

Hygiene Squad could easily be playing in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Crazy and fun.

Anyway, I am sure after listening a few 100 times, I’ll love them all.

But right now I only listened three times and that’s my impression of it. Cheers.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Paul: to be honest, the way I grade albums it's not at all easy to have a 10/10 album. Even Foxy Shazam's album, which I've gone on record saying is the best album to be released in the past three years, wasn't a perfect 10. It's definitely not my favorite Ark album, but that's not saying it's a total disappointment. As for Gravitonas, I've been thinking of writing about that song...

Ark Army: I was wondering what your thoughts would be on this. It's certainly missing that trademark Ark bombast. They're a different band, for sure. Not bad at all, but not exactly what made me fall in love with them in the first place.

5:00 PM  
Blogger 23 Wolves said...

Hey, I love The Ark very much as well...do you know any way to get this album in America? The link from Arkworld goes to a place that only sells in Europe....I really need this piece of plastic, to say nothing of the magazine! Thanks a lot.

3:18 PM  
Blogger 23 Wolves said...

Oh, and I should say that the time I saw them in San Francisco in a bear bar was one of the best concerts I have EVER seen, EVER!

3:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

For me, it's been the first time I LOVED an album of them at first listening - yes, they're one of my favourite bands ever.. but weirdly it'd never happened that I liked one of their albums at first: they all have grown on me with time. So when starting to listen to In Full Regalia I didn't know what to expect.. but I got totally hooked on it by the first note of Take A Shine To Me till the end.
It's somewhat different from other albums. Maybe.. kind of.. less shiny-colorful, if that makes sense? But I find it more rock and with some experimentations more: love it.

oh, and I agree on Superstar being not exactly their best single so far..

@Ark Army: agree on Hygiene Squad XD

2:14 PM  
Blogger 23 Wolves said...

Any ideas? Anyone???sa

4:16 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

@23wolves: how about Record Shop X? http://www.recordshopx.com/artist/ark/in_full_regalia/
I think they ship worldwide. I've bought a few albums from them, and they're absolutely reliable ;)
(I don't mean to spam, just meant to help)

3:23 AM  
Blogger 23 Wolves said...

It looks like Record Shop X will work...thanks, Lisa!

7:51 AM  

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