There’s a heck of a lot to go at here, and I’m not going to have time to do my usual self-satisfied trick of deconstructing what I’m writing as I write it, like some sort of Asda Smartprice Jacques Derrida (apart from in this sentence, of course), so let’s just crack on, shall we?
To make a long review short, this album is pretty astonishing.
The immediate concern about Amplifier’s The Octopus is it’s a double album, and double albums almost never, ever work. There’s not a piece of art on the planet that won’t benefit from a severe evisceration of filler prior to publication, and rare indeed is the record that can get away with even an hour’s length. So to plop a two hour slab of proper prog with a capital P in front of a critic and demand they trust in your vision is a big, ballsy old ask. I’ve got a wank pencilled into today’s diary that’ll eat more than two hours; some bell-end’s interminable sonic dissertation about swords is going to have to go some to beat that.
And that’s the thing that makes this album astonishing rather than just dead chuffing good. They’ve somehow jammed two full hours of belting music into one single record with barely a sag in sight. Listening to it is definitely a commitment, but it’s bloody well worth it. Also, it’s not about swords. But this is:
The closest comparison I’ve got for Amplifier is Porcupine Tree, but that’s really only because they’re both complicated as heck, and the singing man sounds a bit like Little Stevie Wilson, or perhaps like a prog-flavoured Gavin from Feeder. Beyond that, however, this record sounds like fucking everything else you’ve ever heard at once, having a fight, and a fuck, in a blender, on acid.
It’s deeply unfashionable, of course, as all the best stuff is. It sounds like it emerged from about 1993, and there’s not a fucking djent in sight, but I will tell you what. You can call shitty, tedious TeSsERacT ‘prog’ all fucking day, but Amplifier have seen the cut of their gib, smashed it into powder with a gargantuan chord change and then snorted it for a bit of a pick-me-up. In the process, they’ve incorporated every idea teSserACt have ever had and sailed effortlessly past them at a substantial proportion of c.
Overall, the most striking thing about The Octopus is how gleefully, tunefully enormous it is. Witness the short-leg syndrome riff on Interstellar, thick with reverb and flange, and coupled to a blue-shift chorus full of gorgeous harmony, all of which grew organically out of a plinky-plonk toy piano intro, and it finishes up with a bada-bop-bop coda that sounds like it came directly off a Jellyfish record. Or what about the handclaps that pop up in the middle of the otherwise slightly Tool-esque The Wave, and slap a big stupid smile onto your face before doing a waggle-dance?
The Emperor combines a ragged urchin of a beat with a climbing space elevator guitar lead that takes the Kármán line and slowly eases it into your ears and fucks them using nothing but its own buttery sound for lubricant. Then there’s the achingly beautiful Minion’s Song, that just goes completely fucking fissile after about three and a half minutes, and sounds like nothing so much as Polyphonic Spree doing that mammoth cover version of Lithium. And album closer Forever and More is just gorgeous and brilliant and gorgeous. I could go on gushing, but here is where I will arbitrarily decide to give it a rest.
I have to say, it’s been a while since I felt enthusiastic enough about a record to actually want to bother spunking a bunch of rubbish about why I like it, all onto the internet. Ultimately, Amplifier are making sprawling music, entirely on their own terms, that draws elements from all over the place. I feel no conflict in saying it is heavy as heck despite its pop sensibility, and that has got nothing to do with bellowing over shit-boring, chugging 20-string riffs. It’s all about the fat fucking sound, and the dynamics that can take you from singularity to supernova in the mere thud of a heartbeat.