Highlights: Banker Bets, Banker Wins, Swing It Far, Wooton Bassett Town, A Change Of Horses
There’s no question that Ian Anderson’s unexpected Thick As A Brick rehash is a shameless product of nostalgia. And as such, it should be an embarrassing failure. 40 (!) years have passed since the original work that in this reviewer’s eyes remains progressive rock’s greatest achievement. But against all odds and in a totally bizarre way, Thick As A Brick 2 is an unlikely success. Melodies, instrumentation, riffs, even lyrics – all great, all a testament to the unfading brilliance of the 1972 work.
This album works because it is made from the winning mould and because Anderson is playing to his strengths. The man has taste (we’ll forget some 80’s/90’s lapses, nobody’s perfect) and the man can still compose a memorable, effortless folk melody. Check out the one-minute little ditty called “Give Till It Hurts” that evokes all the classic charm of “Cheap Day Return”.
It also helps that Thick As A Brick 2 is filled with neat little melodic and instrumental ideas. There are compact guitar and keyboard solos when you need them, frenetic flute parts and that adorable fingerpicking recreating the classic Jethro Tull sound. Like they should. You might make a point that it all lacks one truly ecstatic section of the “Do you believe in the day?” caliber, but comparing it to the original thing would be pointless in the first place. Even if, yes, there are numerous references to the original (just take a look at that cover; also, guess how the whole thing ends…), including direct ones. And yes, Anderson actually mentions things like “locomotive breath” and “passion play” in the process. And how could he not?
What counts is that there is not a single moment here I do not welcome. Every second of the 8-minute epic “A Change Of Horses”, complete with accordion riffs and guitar/flute solos, sounds warm and captivating. Few spoken word bits do not overstay their welcome, and the album’s most accomplished song, “Banker Bets, Banker Wins”, has such a classic vibe about it that it is bound to get you back to the good old days of, interestingly, Heavy Horses. Nothing wrong with that.
Oddly, the album works precisely because it is a shameless product of nostalgia. Ian doesn’t deviate, doesn’t get distracted. Having come up with a bunch of new tunes, he is pleasantly wallowing in the sound of his acclaimed classic. One whose legacy he loves too much to let it be destroyed so easily and so carelessly. And from a JT fan, it’s a big and hearty ‘thank you’.