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Our goal is to help push humanity forward by utilizing music as a transcendental form of communication and by offering a relief from the monotony that is the byproduct of some of the pitfalls of the music industry. Our first priority is the quality of our music and its (sic) message, and our second is to entertain.
—Hypatia Lake (from press release)


If this review were a documentary on TV, the above quote would be used in voice-over while we see monochrome footage of CDs being relentlessly pressed and put into cases, unremittingly stacked on shelves, and tediously put into bags by some spotty nerd in a record shop (trust me, this is how it happens, for I was once that nerd). It would have an air of the World War II munitions industry about it, and the final sentence would be awash with echo and reverb so that we understand the gravity of what is being said. The subjects of this review, after all, do seem to take themselves very seriously indeed.


Hypatia Lake live, as do we all, in a world where pop music is churned out like candy from a candy factory by an uncaring, money-grabbing music industry. This industry has its eyes only on the bottom line of its profit and loss account, and not the quality of its product. These Luddites from Seattle have seen this evil and they critique it through the medium of music, chiefly using the weapon of metaphor. The metaphor that they employ for this concept album is that of… a candy factory producing candy. I wonder how long it took them to think that one up?


The overall sound and feel of ...And They Shall Call Him Joseph is lifted from some scratchpads that the Flaming Lips, Spiritualized, and Pink Floyd must have left lying around somewhere. Sure enough, Hypatia Lake make some interesting and artistic noises of their own, but these noises have a tendency to wash over you and leave you with the prickly feeling that there just aren’t any real songs in this collection. That’s the key problem with the album. It is perfectly fine musically, it contains lots of music, some of it very catchy, a lot of it quite dark and moody, none of it very original, and not one song that has the ability to stand on its own two feet. But should this be a problem? After all, it is a concept album and should be taken more as a whole. Who takes a chapter from a book and judges the whole book based on that chapter?


Nevertheless, the best concept albums have at least one shiny diamond in the rough. Of the eleven tracks on offer, two—“Farmers Can Be Jedi, Too” and “The Paradigm of the Introvert”—come closest to sticking in your head for more than 5 minutes. This is no mean feat, as both songs themselves border on 5 minutes in length. Apart from these, “He Could Not Save Her from the Cold Blade in the Pale Moonlight” (you’ve got to love that title) also stands out, but only because it is a direct rip-off of Pink Floyd. It sound just like “Be Careful With That Axe While You Shine On By the Dark Side of the Interstellar Overdriven Bike”, or whatever it is called.


Have we come to a point in musical history where the current establishment, the MTV pop “candy factory”, needs a rebellious group of prog rockers to usher in a new and exciting age?  If so, and if it is Hypatia Lake’s intention to “push humanity forward by utilizing music as a transcendental form of communication,” they might be better off finding their own voice rather than speaking over the shoulder of the Flaming Lips. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with ...And They Shall Call Him Joseph. Hypatia Lake has made a very listenable album, but it won’t the world on fire. It will not blow up their hated “candy factory”, and it is unlikely to push humanity any further forward, as it’s hardly pressing against any boundaries itself.


 

Rating:

Marc A. Price was born in Peterborough, a tiny little backwater in the east of England and is a graduate of American Studies (BA, University of Sussex & University of Texas in Austin) and Contemporary History (MA, University of Sussex). He resisted the urge to get a third degree and moved to the Netherlands where he works for a well known STM publisher. He takes photos a good bit these days and struggles with his Internet addiction on a daily basis. He has been writing for PopMatters on and off since 2006. Marc A. Price would like to point out that he is not "Skippy" from Family Ties.


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