Kino are a progressive rock supergroup. I’ll stop right there. “Progressive rock supergroup”? Surely a phrase that will strike fear and loathing into many a reader.
However, given that the band members all come from groups who, whilst being musically technical, were/are undoubtedly song-based (Arena, It Bites, Marillion and Porcupine Tree), and that the likes of Audioslave and Velvet Revolver have made the “supergroup” a viable concept again, perhaps being a progressive rock supergroup might not be such a bad thing?
Perhaps. Things certainly start off well with Losers Day Parade, even if the grammatical faux pas of the song title shows that you can be the best musician in the world and still not know an apostrophe from a hemidemisemiquaver.
In its nine minutes, the track weaves from an aggressive, rocking intro, through an instrumental section with John Mitchell’s guitars and John Beck’s keyboards in tandem, into a semi-bizarre, Beatles crackly vocal interlude, on to a keyboard and guitar solo, through a section of soaring harmonies, cool guitaring and sweeping organs, before returning to a slowed-down version of the opening motif to finish.
Sounds proggy? Yep, but no more so than a lot of the stuff Muse do, and vitally, with a memorable chorus. “Song-based”, remember?
Unfortunately, the rest of Picture’s quality is a good deal more wavery. On the plus side, People is punchy and powerful, while the likes of Holding On and Letting Go have strong melodies, lush harmonies, expert playing from all concerned and guitar tone and solos that are very reminiscent of John Beck’s former bandmate, Francis Dunnery.
However, crucially, Kino don’t have seem to possess Mr Dunnery’s songwriting expertise. The keyboards in Telling Me To Tell You and Perfect Tense are on the cheesy, ’80s side, Swimming In Women is a little over-quirky musically (and lyrically), while Room For Two is an uneasy mix of Toto-like Adult-Oriented Rock and lots of guitar and keyboard widdling.
The album finishes with the title track, a reflective number with Mitchell’s warm vocal accompanying Beck on the piano. However, two minutes in and stop, it’s gone, just when you’re getting into the chilled vibe and expecting it to build into something more substantial.
Which kind of sums up my feelings towards this album, for while Picture starts excitingly it isn’t quite able to go the distance. Hopefully the sequel to this Picture will be where things really come together.