Published on October 25th, 2014 | by Mike Ainscoe0
THESE CURIOUS THOUGHTS – ‘Inventing Dr Sutherland and his Travelling Hospital’
When it comes to songwriting duos there have been some belters over the course of time. Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards and Page/Plant spring immediately to mind, and then there are the wordsmiths who aren’t necessarily musical but who have the gift of the pen, which combined with the right musicians results in some classic partnerships. Think Bernie Taupin and his combination with Sir Elton, and many proggers will also herald the writing of Pete Sinfield and his contribution to King Crimson and ELP. Now you can add the unlikely duo of modern day pen pals, Jamie Radford and Sean Dunlop, the duo behind These Curious Thoughts. Their combination is made even more unlikely by the fact that the pair came together through the power of the internet to provide a transatlantic link between Jamie’s words from the typically English market town of Tonbridge, Kent, which zip their way to the motor city, Detroit, Michigan, where Sean combines them with his musical compositions. As a guitarist, Sean then performs live in his local area accompanied by Sean Nasret on drums and Dan Steffy on bass.
The strangely successful and ongoing musical endeavour has now reached its 10th year and seen the release of 10 full length albums with their sound described as a mix between melodic and progressive rock, somewhere between early Genesis, R.E.M. and The Cars. The distance between them serving not as a barrier, but giving a chance for both to work at their leisure and when the creative urge takes them.
They call it indie rock that’s progressive. With that thought in mind, the overall impression on first playback of the album is that it has a very English atmosphere and is so reminiscent of a certain period of time. Being prepared to expect an early Genesis comparison, it’s hard to think beyond that once the music is in motion. In fact for a Genesis fan, it’s a sound which conjures up the genesis of Genesis.
Taking the very prog flavoured concept of a travelling psychiatrist who sails across the sea to the great state of psychosis, the thread of Radford’s lyrics are perfect fodder for poring over to discover the unfolding journey. The opening song, ‘Dark Room’ contains all sorts of brass and a retro keyboard sound all topped off with the first pointer of what can best be described as an uncannily ‘young Gabriel’ vocal sound. It goes on to recall the Sgt Pepper and Kinks era and the combination of ‘Jupiter’s Baby’/’Baby Godzilla’ offers suggestions of psychedelic Floyd and Who while ‘Dirty Windows’ has some of those familiar Moody Blues choral harmonies, all very English and full of pastoral calm. Not to say that what the These Curious Thoughts do is derivative or unoriginal, but it evokes a period of timeless music which deserves a contemporary take.
No doubt over time, the concept and lyricism will become clearer, as it tends to do, but for now, ‘Inventing Dr Sutherland’ carries the listener on a journey back in time which almost makes you feel you’re listening to a record made in 1968 – and that’s meant as a compliment to the magic that Sean applies in the studio. A Youtube page with over 50 videos and close to 20,000 views shows the potential of this unlikely and unique partnership, earning them a distinctly underground, call it cult if you like, following. Well worth a further investigation, especially for fans of ‘that’ era and of a certain age……..