“There are three main ingredients to the complete experience of a record album: the music, the artwork and the liner notes.” So reads the text in part five (!) of the lavishly illustrated notes complementing Queen Of The Wave, described by its authors Pepe Deluxe as “an esoteric pop opera in three acts”.
It all sounds very intriguing – and that’s only the beginning of a story which sees the return of that old friend, the concept album. Yet this is a concept without a hint of pretension, as it might have had in the hands of a prog rock band. Rather it’s a vehicle through which the duo can channel their multifarious musical influences and fantasies, making a piece of work that glistens, brightly coloured, in the sunlight.
Using tales of Atlantis, or more specifically Frederick S Oliver’s A Dweller On Two Planets, the band have constructed an album that delights in the unexpected as it tells its tale. There are lashings of their trademark psychedelic funk, a brilliant send-up of a 1970s glam disco track in the slinky Get Supersonic, some highly effective operatic pastiche, and then in part two of the opera we are introduced to its crowning glory, the Great Stalacpipe Organ.
Now believe it or not, this extraordinary instrument is not a flight of fancy, for it really exists in the Luray Caverns in Virginia, and here it has been harnessed to power the massive chords that end Grave Prophecy. There is a playful side to this instrument too, harnessed on the interlude In The Cave, before the record builds to a massive conclusion courtesy of Raiders On The First Ark. Here the kitchen sink is in full effect, orchestra and choir added to provide a rousing finish.
The only complaint here is that Queen Of The Wave is over a bit too soon, for the plethora of ideas is such that the brain keeps looking for more. As you may have guessed, this is an odyssey bursting with energy, colour and invention, one that is a huge amount of fun to take part in, and one that gives its hero and villain appropriately vivid music, as every good opera should.
Fans of the band will love it – but anyone looking for a return to the good old days when albums were invested with tender loving care will want to hear it too.