I’ve never made it a secret that I’m a big fan of Pink Floyd. Nor am I alone in that adoration. The Brits had a huge influence on music in every genre, and their footsteps still impact artists across the globe. Their biggest crater is of course left in their home country, where Bright Curse sprang up over half a decade ago. With only vocalist Romain Daut remaining from the debut’s line-up, the young band has evidently been through some tumultuous times, but this hasn’t stopped Daut nor his three compatriots from hitting the studio and cranking out sophomore album Time of the Healer. The album carries much of Pink Floyd‘s DNA, but supplements the psychedelic space rock with fuzzy stoner jams for a spicy kick. So how does the trio fare in combining classic psych and distorted progressive jams?
At first glance, and even second glance, they succeed rather well. Opener “Smoke of the Path” subtly layers folky synths on laid-back twanging bass and gives the track plenty of room to build up tension. The vocals are clear and bright, and there’s a playfulness to the many dynamic variations employed. When the distortion finally pops in, it feels thoroughly earned and adds some heft and drama to the track. It’s a solid, well-composed track whose length is no detriment thanks to the strong songwriting. The performances are likewise excellent, with subtlety being the key word, even when the river hits a rapid or two and the guitar solos get more developed. The aforementioned playfulness is employed with restraint, little twangs and variations to the cycles of the looping bass riff keeping it fresh.
But though much of the music proceeds in this fashion, there’s an awful lot of what the British call “faffing about.” “Laura” is a neat track with a flair for the moody and a solid chorus, but “Une Virée” is a useless throwaway of French mumbling overlaying music so thin it’s barely there at all, and though “Shadows” has some lovely morose psychedelic soundscapes, it can’t keep the tension taut for 12 minutes, partially due to the incessant slow pacing and an uninteresting spoken word interlude. It doesn’t really come to life until seven minutes in. The title track has more energy, but falls into repetition and includes a three-minute section so minimal it qualifies as silence before firing off a last chorus. Being a fan of progressive music in general, I can certainly appreciate a little faffing about (see also my Empath review), but I think the brilliance of progressive is the sense of, well, progression. With such a free form style, the music should really feel like it’s moving with a sense of purpose, chronicling some sort of journey, and when Bright Curse is firing on all cylinders they have that in spades. But that’s only about 60% of the album, and the rest just seems aimless.
It’s a crying shame, because the band is clearly capable of more; the opening track in and of itself proves as much. Between that track and “Laura,” the album is pretty front-loaded, piling general fatigue on top of the harder to swallow music, which “Time of the Healer” only partially breaks free from. This dichotomy makes scoring the album much more difficult. One moment I am snoring through “Une Virée” and considering crucifixion, the next they claw their way out of lethargy with a killer transition from a solid double-speed guitar solo to a groovy, fuzz-laden riff. I’ll be bobbing my head to the closer’s rocking chorus and then I’m dropped in a hole of nothingness for three minutes. It’s a frustrating affair that taints the enjoyment of the great parts with the anticipation of the aimless ones.
What makes Pink Floyd so great to me is their unparalleled songwriting. They could spin yarn for a long time, but it never felt like the track wasn’t going anywhere (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is a particularly perfect example). At their best, Bright Curse remind me of that level of song construction, mixing in fuzzy stoner metal for a potent combination. At their worst, they are the complete opposite, wandering without a sense of purpose or development. Time of the Healer shows a lot of promise, but the band needs to be more consistent to ever join the ranks of the greats.