buzz surrounding Phideauxís Doomsday Afternoon, it seems
as if this yearís best album may have gone overlooked.
In Songs from the Bilston House, Guy Manning has
totally outdone himself. When my hands werenít giving
the air guitars - or those equally phantom keyboards -
their due, my mouth was agape with shock and awe.
For several days straight, I was humming this very
music. I just couldnít get these catchy tunes out of my
head. And believe it or not, Iím not talking about one
or two songs. In general, Manningís latest album is
littered with accessible passages and mantras. Every
time I hear it, I am befuddled at how long it took him
to craft this masterpiece. It seems like only yesterday
he released A Matter of Life & Death, One Small Step,
and Anserís Tree. How in the heck did he fit so much
onto a single disc?
Looking at the credits, I see he had assistance from
Andy Tillision. This might explain why a number of the
numbers parallel The Tangent. While that might fulfill a
piece of the puzzle, this extraordinarily gifted
Englishman deserves a glut of accolades for his
wholesome efforts. He has 77 minutes and 14 seconds of
confectionary goodness, and itís completely absent of
marshmallowy minutiae or fluff. Even his hazelnut gelato
isnít cut with lesser fillers.
To describe this concept album, I keep returning to the
same correlation. This is like Charlie and The Chocolate
Factory on shuffle. As Tim Burton has done for The Demon
Barber, it would come as no surprise if the prince of
dark fantasy came knocking on Manningís door with the
possibilities of a screenplay. To that end, this
material is not only incredible; itís as sing-able as an
east coast musical. Then again, itís more up to date
than a sacrificial lamb on Broadway.
Playing the role of Oompa-Loompas are Laura Fowles and
Julie King whose backing vocals round out the equation
by adding a sweet eeriness to the mix. Since they are
females and neither pygmies nor munchkins, it seems as
if Deep Roy, Warwick Davis and Kenny Baker, will have to
keep looking for employment. Not to mention, Fowles
brings her saxophone to the table; thus making her more
desirable to the stage manager.
Even though every ditty is to die for, ďLost in PlayĒ is
leaps and bounds ahead of the rest. Thatís my personal
opinion so thereís should be no question which
cocoa-covered nougat holds the golden ticket. Iím sure
the fair-haired rosy-skinned demoralizing dwarves of
Loompaland would agree with me that this song has the
commercially acceptable vibe of the BoDeans. Piled upon
the heap, Steve Dundonís flutes are fabulous too;
creating so much stickiness that it would have been
impossible to flush this down a garbage chute.
Foregoing my favorite song, Veruca Salt is the center of
attention in ďThe Calm AbsurdĒ.
Persisting to stir diverse ingredients into the mixer,
ďUnderstudyĒ has David Million borrowing his lead guitar
from RPWL. While his methods pass the litmus test, only
when I checked the bill did I realize that Blind Egoís
front-man and shredder was absent. As I hold the
highly-regarded Kalle Wallner responsible, itís plain to
see that this union buster has done his job and
duplicated a precious recipe thatís one in million.
In concordance with the suspicions of Mike Tevee,
Genesis is clearly referenced in ďSkimming StonesĒ -- up
until that point where Manning bribes the ferryman with
ďIcarus & MeĒ proves that this working prototype from GM
is the newest model to come out of Neal Morseís
showroom. When taken for a spin, it seems as if Morseís
offshore cartel has incorporated a twist on the popular
model: That would be the keyboards and brass from
Spockís Beardsí Snow.
In contrast, ďPillars of SaltĒ is a blast from the past
that goes even further back. In a way, itís reminiscent
of The Beatles and The Doors. If I saw this on Ed
Sullivan in black and white, I wouldnít have known that
the broadcast was a fake.
Bridging the connection between Italy and Ireland, the
worldly infusion from ďInner MomentĒ comes without the
layover. As itís on the candy dot in terms of
punctuality, it has no need for a flux capacitor to put
a wrinkle in the time either. It does however feature an
accordion and if you squint; you might find Iona running
away with a piece of the action.
The only songs I didnít mention were the title track and
ďAntaresĒ. Trust me; these donít deserve to be treated
like chopped liver, but truth be told; the respective
themes do correspond with Augustus Gloop and Violet
Beauregarde. They also sound like The B-52ís.
[That would be the band,
and not the long-range working-class plane manufactured
by Boeing or the uncommon galís beehive hairdo. To be
absolutely lucid, I have cited one of the leaders of pop
who has been styled after a coif that was strategically
named after a Subsonic Stratofortress. Got it? Or were
you just as confused as I was when trying to follow the
chocolatierís convoluted speech patterns.]
By the way, the startup program initiated from the
knocker is extremely well-written. Plus, I love how the
lexis posted on the artwork is chimed as we pass through
In retrospect, my first thought was that this album was
very good. Once the conclusive note expired, I wanted to
hear it again. Out of impulse, I reset the player and
surreptitiously hit play. Now that Iíve had time to
ascertain whatís been done, I assert that heís produced
a hole in one. When weighed against his priceless
ingots, bar none this is his best. Itís simply beyond
compare even if it does appear to pay homage to spoiled
While I purposely try not to use the same words twice, I
have no qualms calling it a masterpiece more than once.
Not only is it a marvel in and of itself, it puts a
twist on that renowned phenomenon that queerly binds
Dark Side of the Moon to the escapades of Dorothy Gale.
This is more than just a clever analogy; itís virtually
reality. I was flabbergasted by the coincidence between
this and Johnny Deppís take on Willy Wonka. Also I was
bowled over by the fact that an album with hair-raising
effects went relatively unnoticed. You know what? Itís
better than Cats. In translation, Songs from the
Bilston House is just too good to miss.
So thatís the album more or less. Now that I have this
critique out of the way, all I ask is for a moment of
silence as I veto a misguided panel and announce the
actual winner of last year. If there was something
called the Programmy, the slip inside the envelope would
read, ďAnd the award goes to Guy Manning!!!Ē
Reviewer: Josh Turner
me wrong: Doomsday Afternoon is an excellent album. Itís
not as if itís a stinker or being considered for the
Golden Raspberry Award. To be frank, Phideauxís latest
opus is a masterpiece as well. I just think that this
one is marginally better.]