Challenging Greed and Media Whoredom: 3rdegree’s “The Long Division”
“The Long Division” By 3rdegree (2012)
Sometime right after Christmas, I had the great joy of receiving a package addressed to Progarchy from New Jersey. A nice note accompanied the very intriguingly-packaged CD, “The Long Division” by 3rdegree.
Lots of great CDs have come in for review, but I’m always surprised when they’re not accompanied by some explanation. Or, it would be better to write: I love getting notes from the artists themselves. Even the short “Hey, let us know what you think” offers a personal connection. Maybe it’s just my Kansas upbringing regarding such things as “thank you notes.” But, I digress.
Suffice it to write, the note from Robert of 3rdegree said: love what you’re doing; please check us out when you have a moment.
And, for the last month, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time with 3rdegree’s 2012 release, “The Long Division.” Imagine Steely Dan, Echolyn, and Tears for Fears in the studio together. Maybe throw in just a touch of the more complex aspects of some 70s harder rock. Prog it all up and throw some New Jersey attitude in. Finally, mix in some really bitter populist–true and righteous (in the best sense)–lyrics, and you start to approach the wonder that is 3rdegree.
And, I should mention, this is really, really American. How can I state this? I’m frankly not entirely sure. But, the whole cd certainly feels very American.
As with much of prog, there’s a real perfectionism here, too. The keyboards (especially the piano), the bass, the drums, and the guitars sound very sharp. The mix is simply excellent, and the group feels tight. My guess is they like each other very much. I don’t think it would be possible to play like this without a real sense of perfectionism and sympathy with and respect for one another.
My favorite part, though, are the vocals. The closest comparison I could make–in terms of vocals–is to the best of Spock’s Beard, Gentile Giant, and early Echolyn. I can’t imagine the vocal arrangements here ever getting boring or rote in any way. Outstanding. Truly outstanding.
This leads me, naturally, to the lyrics. When Carl, Chris, and I started Progarchy, we decided to make music the focus and avoid–wherever possible–the subject of religion and politics. The three of us already do that fervently elsewhere on the web. Progarchy is meant to be a music site, open to all.
That said, I don’t think it would be possible to review this cd without at least a mention of the politics presented here. Never dumbed down (thank you, 3rdegree), the lyrics reflect a real anger at the state of American political culture. Whether that anger stems from a Left or a Right–a liberal/Democratic or conservative/Republican–position, I just can’t tell, despite my numerous readings of the lyrics. My guess is that these guys are simply too smart to be either left or right. Clearly, they’re not fans of corporate welfare. But, they don’t seem thrilled with eco-freaks either. Here’s their own statement on their website:
“You’re Fooling Yourselves!”, wails 3RDegree lead singer/keyboardist George Dobbs on the band’s lead-off single from the new CD THE LONG DIVISION-their first since 2008. This song-as well as a few others on the first half of the album-flesh out the band’s 2012 political treatise: that America’s political parties (and probably those in other countries) have long divided it’s populous on the basis of color, salary, sex, age and much else, have played on their fears, and have used their accumulated powers to build up largesse to keep their supporters in the fold. Ok, it’s not always that heavy, but the album was penned in the shadow of the 2008 economic collapse that was happening right as 3RDegree were releasing their first album in 12 years: NARROW-CASTER. While that third album was a combination of fresh songs and resurrected ideas from the period just before the band’s original breakup in 1997, THE LONG DIVISION is in the shared vintage of Tea Parties, Occupy Movements, shovel-ready jobs and banks and car companies “too big to fail”.
Well, from whatever position, I like it.
I can’t give enough praise to this CD. It’s the kind of cd that makes you increasingly enthusiastic with each new track. One track is utterly brilliant, and just when you think there’s no way the band can top track one, track two starts, and you’re blown away. Then, track three, four, five. . . . It just keeps being increasingly mind boggling.
Whatever the state of civil liberties, the economy, or government in the U.S., 3rdegree dramatically affirms my belief that American prog is alive and well.
To learn more about 3rdegree, check out their outstanding website (the perfect model of a website for any band–a fan’s dream; lots and lots of information): http://3rdegreeonline.com/3RDegree/Home.html. I also want to note that one of our favorite American proggers, Mark Ptak of The Advent, plays on “The Long Division” as well. Additionally, the band supports good beer.