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Yes' "Open Your Eyes"; The American Analog Set's "From Our Living Room To Yours"

By Michael Henningsen

DECEMBER 22, 1997: 

Alibi Rating Scale:
Note to vegetarians: Sorry.
!!!!!= Chicken Pot Pie
!!!!= Beef Pot Pie
!!!= Vegetable Pot Pie
!!= Greasy Pork Pot Pie
!= Poop Pot Pie

Yes Open Your Eyes (Beyond Music)

As a youth, changing stations on the dial whenever Yes' "Roundabout" or "Owner of a Lonely Heart" came on the air was a regular activity. It was a period in my life during which I absolutely relished the salvation--even if the only alternative was Triumph or Golden Earring--of having something, no anything, to listen to that wasn't Yes. Later, I came to accept England's most celebrated progressive rock band and even to respect them for their remarkable, if overbearing, individual musicianship. And in all fairness, I must say that I did and always will prefer Trevor Rabin over Steve Howe. The Rabin days may be over (for now), but the Yes days apparently are still with us.

But with their best album, 1972's Fragile, now decades past, Yes are operating on the equivalent of a musical respirator. If only the family would muster the courage to pull the proverbial plug. Founding members Jon Anderson (vocals) and Chris Squire (bass) are joined for Open Your Eyes by on-again-off-again mem-bers Alan White (drums), Steve Howe (guitar) and some new blood in the form of Billy Sherwood (keyboards, guitar). Simply having a relative youngster in the band, though, does little to jump start old hearts in this case, making this record seem more a novelty than a serious attempt at recuperation.

The one remarkable thing about Open Your Eyes is the lush vocal harmony achieved by high tenors Squire and Anderson. The soaring melodies occasionally push the envelope--even for Yes--of orchestral rock singing. Most artists couldn't come up with such striking arrangements if their lives depended on it. Then again, most of them would never have the inclination or desire to do so, mainly because bands like Yes tend to wind up with music so obtuse as to make it nearly unlistenable. Except, of course, for that kid who used to be the butt of your jokes and bearer of your spitwads.

The 11 tracks here combine to make an all but disastrous effort from a band who ceased being a band by the late '70s, when they became an institution. In turn, those committed individuals will find Open Your Eyes as satisfying as medication time in the rec room. The rest of us will find some other reason to live. ! 1/2


The American Analog Set From Our Living Room To Yours (Trance Syndicate)

My mother used to sing lullabies to send me to sleep. I don't remember them--or even her singing voice, for that matter--but, in listening to American Analog Set's latest collection of sparse, gentle creations, I remember the sweet delirium that poured ever-so-slowly over my psyche as I drifted off to Never Never Land.

For the most part, AmAnSet stick to a loose formula that bands like Stereolab have mastered and legitimized--breezy Farfisa organ melodies and reverb-drenched guitar over painfully restrained grooves and light, pulsating bass lines. But this Ft. Worth quartet have far more in common with Yo La Tengo and even Mazzy Star than they do with Eurorgan bands like Stereolab and Spiritualized. Like the former, AmAnSet find a circular vamp that works, allow themselves to become en-tranced and then let the whole thing bleed all over itself. As for the latter, both drummer Mark Smith and keyboardist Lisa Roschmann mirror Mazzy Star guitarist David Roback's want of gloom-soaked laze. The result is music that folds into your ears like warm batter into a waiting pan.

Unlike the aforementioned bands, though, AmAnSet maintain a certain reticent quality to their music that has nothing to do with art rock or depression. The music itself is simple, but it burns hot: melting through layer after layer of consciousness, ultimately content to smolder in the deepest annals of dreamland. Quietly contemplative and stunningly beautiful, From Our Living Room To Yours is a record to be savored patiently like a soft, lingering kiss. The rewards are sweet and the dream, as you'll soon find out, is real. !!!!!


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