Let’s get this out of the way – Steve Thorne’s fifth album is pretty terrific. It sounds great, has plenty of clever writing, and features Nick D’Virgilio and prog royalty Tony Levin, alongside Cosmograf’s Robin Armstrong among others. Although there are hints of contemporary prog acts like Big Big Train in tracks like Colours Of Torment, Dear Mother Earth and They Are Flesh (Thorne’s voice is quite reminiscent of David Longdon at times), the material owes as much if not more to the likes of Crowded House, Talk Talk and even to lush 80s pop like Yazoo (have a listen to opener In The Frame).
For Thorne, lyrics are easily as important as the music – the album consistently and cleverly juxtaposes angry, bitter and political themes with a pleasant, melodic delivery. It’s hard to believe that The Island Of Imbeciles will be, as he’s suggested, Thorne’s last album – when you have so much obvious talent and many powerful things to say, it’d be a shame not to share these with the wider world. It certainly isn’t ‘classic’ retro-prog, but if you hanker for accessible, immediate, well-crafted tunes, with a bit of punk attitude in the subject matter, The Island Of Imbeciles is the one for you.