Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2 Thick as a Brick 2… Building up for release

Review: Ian Anderson – Thick as a Brick 2

Published on March 9th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

When Jethro Tull main man Ian Anderson says that his band’s original Thick as a Brick album was a “parody” of progressive rock – “a spoof to the albums of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, much like what the movie Airplane! had been to Airport” – we can but take him at his word. Forty years later, he’s back with a labyrinthine sequel that not only reinforces the absurdity of this form, but also betrays anew Anderson’s evident relish for the challenges inherent in such an undertaking. Welcome back to the fold then, young Gerald Bostock; what had life’s rich tapestry been holding in store for you?

The theme of this sequel, we are told, is “to examine the possible different paths that precocious young schoolboy Gerald Bostock might have taken later in life, and to create alter-ego characters whose song-section identities illustrate the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity. Not just for Gerald but to echo how our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time.” It’s not the most original of concepts – perhaps that’s the point – but it is nevertheless a supremely accomplished piece of work courtesy of one of rock music’s most feverishly creative minds.

Official Thick as a Brick 2 trailer

Opener “From a Pebble Thrown” gets underway with a slow fade-in of wailing guitar stabs recognisable from the original piece, Anderson’s quizzical flute and eventual chugging guitar combining to sound like the re-emergence or rebirth at the beginning of a sequel of a protagonist presumed dead from before. “Which way to blue skies?” intones Anderson with an almost Disney-esque sense of wonder, laying the conceptual foundations with lines such as “Ripples from a pebble thrown/Make a tsunami on a foreign shore/I would slip right off this high-rise hell/But the elevator stops at every floor”.

By this point, two features that might repel any new listeners are set in stone, namely the medieval vibe conjured by Anderson’s bard-like delivery, and the authentic but not entirely welcome chugs of ’80s metal power chords. Suffice it to say, such a combination might bring the vehemently anti-prog out in some kind of rash, but accepting these stylistic concessions pays off handsomely with a collection of songs that hang together like those on Tommy or Arthur.

“Might Have Beens” introduces Anderson’s hilarious ‘noble knight’ approach to spoken word (“Might you have been the man of courage, Brave upon life’s battlefield?”), and then we are shown by the Ghost of Gerald Yet to Come a number of divergent outcomes for the boy’s future. A cursory glance at the tracklist should give you a decent idea of what to expect – “Upper Sixth Loan Shark”, “Banker Bets, Banker Wins”, “Kismet in Suburbia” and “Adrift and Dumbfounded”, the latter of which sounds as if it’s about to break into “In the Hall of the Mountain King” – and while the whole ‘bifurcating trousers of time’ schtick represents territory all-too-often trodden on, it can still be captivating and frequently profound when executed with this much panache.

Ian Anderson interview for Thick as a Brick 2

We have already referred to both Tommy and Arthur in this review, and the common ground is clearly marked by the uncomfortable implication of child abuse in “Swing it Far” and barbed endorsement of the simple life in “Cosy Corner” (“Gerald Bostock, fresh from school /With few O-levels, sets his sights/No grand, fanciful fantasies/But level-headed middle ground/The retail trade? The corner shop?/That humble service of plain town folk”); meanwhile, “Confessional” works as a sort of counter-eventuality to “Banker Bets, Banker Wins” (“I made my millions/Stashed the pile/In Swiss bank havens/Lost the lot/When Inland Revenue got wise/So I did my time/My time for what?”), while curtain-closer “What Ifs, Maybes” ties it all together by reprising at least two of the previous tracks and seasoning the experience with some cause for contemplation:

“We always wonder now and then/If things had turned out just plain different/Chance partaken, page unturned/Or brief encounter blossomed, splintered/Might I have been the man of courage/Brave upon life’s battlefield?”

Rocksucker says: A textbook and presumably self-aware musical odyssey housing a suitably existential case study, not to mention some very fine songs indeed. Eight Quails out of Ten!

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Click here to read Rocksucker’s interview with Ian Anderson!

Thick as a Brick 2 will be released on 2nd April through EMI Music. Ian Anderson will also play the following UK dates in April and May…

Date City Venue Box Office
18th Liverpool Philharmonic 0151 709 3789
19th Sheffield City Hall 0114 2 789 789
20th Blackburn St George’s Hall 0844 847 1664
21th Harrogate Royal Hall 0845 130 8840
22th Manchester Opera House 0844 847 2484
24th Derby Assembly Rooms 01332 255 800
25th Ipswich Regent Theatre 01473 433100
27th London Hammersmith Apollo 0843 221 0100
28th Bristol Colston Hall 0117 922 3686
29th High Wycombe The Swan Theatre 01494 512 000
30th Birmingham Symphony Hall 0121 780 3333
2nd Oxford Apollo 0844 847 1588
3rd Reading Hexagon 0118 960 6060
4th Guildford G Live 0844 7701 797
5th Cardiff St David’s Hall 029 2087 8444
6th Southampton Guildhall 023 8063 2601

Tickets are available at www.gigantic.com

“After 44 years of leading Tull to 54 countries worldwide and over 60 million albums sold, Ian Anderson celebrates a true progressive rock classic with old and new fans across the UK for a whole three weeks. Anderson is known as the flute and voice of the legendary Jethro Tull, formed in the North of England in 1968 from the amalgamation of blues-based John Evan Band and McGregor’s Engine. Since their first performance at London’s famous Marquee Club in 1968, the band has released 30 studio and live albums and earned a prominent place in rock history.”

The official Jethro Tull website: jethrotull.com

Tickets are available at gigantic.com.

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.

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