With such a title (Propeller) one might expect an up-tempo dynamic progressive rock album. On the contrary, Grice offer a highly melodic, arguably melancholic and deeply emotional record that clocks at over 50 minutes. Low tempos, warm vocals, occasional saxophone and bagpipe passages in an album that flirts strongly with the “pop” side of prog.
The aesthetics of Propeller resemble to the less adventurous and highly melodic moments of PINK FLOYD and more than any other Hogarth-era MARILLION. Some smart, short interludes give some variation to an otherwise steady-paced record. The progression of interest I can relate to a camel’s back: It starts off with a couple of captivating tracks in “Patiently” (probably the strongest melody on the album) and “Let it Go” (with a distinct Greek music aroma), but continues on a lethargic pace (“Slowdive”) with the (unsuccessful, in my opinion) injection of alternative tunes ("Highly Strung" – this one reminded me of CHINO MORENO’s vocal style) and the rather uninteresting, and unfortunately longest, title track. The latter does not survive the test of quality despite the folksy characteristics in use of bagpipes and smart percussion. Luckily, the album propels itself after “Lost and Found” to jazzier passages and a more attractive and slightly abstract mood, bringing to mind the stylistic peculiarities of DAVID SYLVIAN (mostly), STEVEN WILSON and ALAN PARSONS (check those interludes), to the Floydian “Broken Arrow” and the optimistic and encouraging “The Cage”.
Jim Peters (the man behind Grice) must be credited with his ideas in using a multitude of instruments, from tzouras (!) to santuri, flute, trumpet and the strong presence of violins in an impressive line-up of session musicians. An accessible, in general terms, album, Propeller shows elements of inconsistency but also strong production credentials and signs of quality song-writing.
3+ stars – recommended to fans of Hogarth-era MARILLION, DAVID SYLVIAN.
Highlights: "Patiently", "Lost and Found"