Egg: The Polite Force

Schizoid great/’difficult’ 70s prog classic gets laid again.

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After a rather directionless and less-than-engaging debut album, with follow-up The Polite Force Egg recorded a 70s-prog semi-classic that was part good-as-it-gets Canterbury scene, part hard-to-handle, difficult-to-define noodle-noise.

Slam-dunking the good stuff first, opener Visit To Newport Hospital has a fuzzed-Hammond intro section so dark and doomy-heavy that it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a particularly good early Sabbath track, before it changes suddenly to a gentle melody married to lyrics that are seriously toe-curling. The track really is worth the price of admission alone.

The rollicking-along Contrasong could be a Gentle Giant piece, with its time-signature trickery (“a basic 58 98 pattern developed”, the sleeve notes inform. “Basic”?), and instrumentally is like something that could soundtrack a villains-on-the-run scene in a 60s film.

That is perhaps as far into this record the faint-hearted or unadventurous should travel. For much of the rest of the album (Boilk and Long Piece No.3 Parts 1 to 4), song structures are cracked and fractured, traditional instrumentation is joined by electronic sounds, white noise, and a battery of ‘random’ sounds, plus the ‘kitchen contents being chucked down a flight of stairs’ that was de rigueur for any 70s avant pro-jazz combo; melody makes only the odd cameo appearance.

Sometimes very groovy, sometimes challenging, sometimes difficult, but an album that adventurous spirits should at least give a listen./o:p

Classic Rock’s production editor for the past 22 years, ‘resting’ bass player Paul has been writing for magazines and newspapers, mainly about music, since the mid-80s, contributing to titles including Q, The Times, Music Week, Prog, Billboard, Metal Hammer, Kerrang! and International Musician. He has also written questions for several BBC TV quiz shows. Of the many people he’s interviewed, his favourite interviewee is former Led Zep manager Peter Grant. If you ever want to talk the night away about Ginger Baker, in particular the sound of his drums (“That fourteen-inch Leedy snare, man!”, etc, etc), he’s your man.