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Steve Thorne: Crimes & Reasons

Known prog faces line up on Thorne’s arresting opus.

If you listen to the high-quality music here in a cursory manner, then you’ll get the impression of a genteel approach that is connected to It Bites and Magenta. However, if you leave the album after just one play and without taking note of the lyrics, then you are missing the purpose of this studied and unhurried endeavour by several parsecs.

The fourth album from Thorne actually has real depth and meaning on all fronts. Most of the instrumentation is played by him, but he does have significant help from bassist Tony Levin, drummers Nick D’Virgilio and Bob White, and guitarist Gary Chandler, with Martin Orford popping up on flute on a couple of tracks too. That’s a pedigree taking in King Crimson, Spock’s Beard, Jadis and IQ – with the performances easily living up to the reputations of those involved.

When you play Crimes & Reasons a few times, it starts to make a lot more sense. It has an underlying drive to complement the overt delicacy, and this gives everything a certain unexpected rigour that, on occasion, even borders on the aggressive. But when you consider the lyrical content, this is strictly in keeping with the mood. Although this is not a concept album, Thorne has elected to tackle modern issues head on.

It starts off with Already Dead, and deals with how a slavery to modern technology reduces people to no more than easily controlled zombies. The atmosphere here is forthright and vitriolic. This is continued on Bullets & Babies, which tackles the issue of kids being turned into soldiers for lost causes. The title track has little time for the vacuous pursuits of an uncaring society, and Everything Under The Sun looks mournfully at a life ebbing away in loneliness. Enhanced by Orford’s flute flourishes, Moth To A Flame continues the theme of the subjugation of the individual. It all ends with Modern Curse, which is about being part of a crowd for whom success is all about financial rewards, whatever the personal cost.

Thorne rarely offers glimpses of hope. But that’s not the point being made. What he’s trying to do is strip away the superficial artifice of society, and expose us all as the contradictory creatures we are prepared to be, in order to fit into a neat hole excavated for us by others – whatever the cost.

Crimes & Reasons is a triumph on all fronts. You can listen to it purely for the musical imagination employed, but by doing that you’d be missing a lot of the point.