PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS – Only Passing Through [Bonus Track Edition] (2022)
PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS boasts the talents of current and former Spock’s Beard members Ted Leonard, Jimmy Keegan and Dave Meros in addition to long-time contributing songwriter-producer John Boegehold. And what started as a side project now developed in a fascinating full band, with the group ready to release their third studio album in three years, “Only Passing Through“.
This new record is an outstanding Prog Rock statement delivering strong and infectious melodies, powerful dynamics and complex song structures to die for.
The crazy thing is that the band excels in three general approaches to song structure: the under-5 minute concise hook-laden rock&pop songs, the 6 – 9 minute mini-epics and finally, the more extended pieces which can run anywhere from 10 – 17 minutes.
“Only Passing Through” has something for everyone, from stylized rock&pop fans to demanding progressive aficionados. This Limited CD edition in eco-friendly digipak adds two bonus tracks.
The band wastes zero time jumping in and delivering top-tier musicianship, colorful instrumentation and arrangements, hooks galore, original songwriting and immaculate production.
There’s no languid ambient Pink Floyd atmospheres here. To the contrary, opener “Everdark Mountain”’s immediacy is supremely satisfying and vexing at the same time. But then pulls a surprise by revealing itself to be the shortest P-SA song ever recorded. It’s a rich and potent beginning, combining acoustic ukulele with electric power chords, Dave Meros’ distinctive bass, Jimmy Keegan’s thundering hits on his drum kit and Ted Leonard’s truly inspiring vocals.
Carrying the impact of a 15-minute epic stuffed into under 3 minutes, one can’t help be impressed, if not a little frustrated in wanting more. Even Leonard’s guitar solo runs under ten seconds but what a ten seconds…the tone, the tone! No matter the brevity, with a total run-time of 60 minutes on the album, there’s plenty more to come.
Others tracks in song-format are the symphonic title track “Only Passing Through” and the gorgeous “Rock Paper Scissors” which carries a nursery-rhyme feel but lyrically deals more with war games than playground games. “Gather let the games begin, He who has the most toys wins, Broken rule remains, Royals reign revolution grows, Hide and seeking destiny, Olly olly oxen free.” As Leonard’s voice careens over-top, “spinning circles” like Steve Walsh on a Kansas classic, the listener comes to the realization that this is a little slice of genius they are experiencing.
The title track “Only Passing Through” is more of a ballad, carried by a symphonic arrangement and layered backup vocals.
The short rockers are represented by “Much Ado”, a cleverly written ditty much about nothing (or is it?), and the ridiculously labeled “bonus track” (because it’s way too good for a bonus) “I’m Not Alright”. Both feature crunchy choruses, and both are authored by Leonard to show off his rocker side which works really well in this configuration.
Aside from proggy ornamentation, these are rock numbers and better than much of what’s on the radio today. The response backup vocal line on “I’m Not Alright” is especially satisfying, as is Leonard’s brief but impactful guitar solo. We can confidently check off this category of “Radio-ready hit prog rock singles”.
There’s three mini-length songs on the album, each one expertly structured. “I Can’t Stay Here Anymore” is kind of the perfect P-SA song which shows off each member, the power of Keegan’s drums being one of the primary ingredients. “Said The Stranger” holds a steady gallop throughout, even as the terrain travels over various time signatures and a wide array of Boegehold’s keyboards and orchestrations.
But it’s in “Here With You With Me” that the band turns a new corner, a majestic ballad that flows into unexpected directions but is utterly charming. Leonard’s vocal entrance is smooth as silk, the harmony arrangements later approaching an almost soul R&B vibe. Electric sitar runs, orchestrated flourishes, Meros’ grounding bass heartbeat, Leonard’s guitar soloing fading out…what a wonderful new world this band and their listeners have entered.
Closing the album proper, this is one of the highest peaks yet summited by the Animals.
The album also contains one lengthy epic in “Time Has A Way”. Running over 13-minutes, Boegehold has thrown a bit of everything in here, including one of his favorite motifs: the soundtrack of a spaghetti western. Violins, horns, conga – there’s a lot in the mix aside from your typical 4-piece rock band. It progresses from section to section, seldom looking back musically or lyrically. The border town gunslinger tale carries the listener’s interest for a while but it’s the ending grand choruses and guitar strokes which truly prog out.
Beyond the notable strengths of the band members themselves, P-SA’s secret sauce includes its wide range of influences, the skillful layering of vocals, and the unexpected use of additional instruments. Along with the guest appearances of violins, bassoon, brass and cello, Boegehold himself plays charango, ronrocco, ukulele and vihuela.
All of these elements are brought together remarkably well thanks to Boegehold’s production and Rich Mouser’s mix and mastering. As a studio band who are about to take their first steps onto the stage at long last, P-SA were given an initial 3-record contract by Inside Out Music.
As far as record contracts go, it has to be said that they’ve hit it out of the park, each album surpassing the previous one. Not only does their contract need to be renewed, this is a band that needs to get into the ears of music lovers everywhere.
01 – Everdark Mountain
02 – I Can’t Stay Here Anymore
03 – Time Has a Way
04 – Rock Paper Scissors
05 – Much Ado
06 – Only Passing Through
07 – Said the Stranger
08 – Here with You with Me
09 – I’m Not Alright (Bonus Track)
10 – Just Another Day at the Beach (Bonus Track)
Ted Leonard – Vocals and guitars
Dave Meros – Bass
Jimmy Keegan – Drums and backing vocals
John Boegehold – Synths, keyboards