Ryan Parmenter - 2007 - The Noble Knave [VBR HQ]
Genre: Progressive Rock
Album review by Mark Hughes at DPRP Reviews:
Ryan Parmenter kicks off the New Year with a solo album that might well come as something of a surprise to anyone familiar with the progressive epics found on both of the excellent Eyestrings albums, the band he has been fronting for the past six years. For The Noble Knave is a collection of shorter pieces that "fall outside of the realm of Eyestrings", a group not particularly known for light-hearted ditties. The 13 tracks on the album represent a lighter side to Parmenter, being his favourite poppy, and often zany, songs that he has composed over the past 10 years. Yes, I did refer to the album as poppy, in as much as the songs of the Beatles, the Kinks and even XTC are great pop songs. Judging from the Eyestrings albums one would be forgiven for thinking that Parmenter was rather a disturbed individual, however he is a tremendously funny guy, take a look at his website and in particular the FAQ page to see what I mean. He is also a very accomplished musician and arranger and a fine artist to boot, as is evidenced from The Noble Knave with everything on the CD self written, performed and produced and the accompanying artwork (available on-line on The Noble Knave section of Parmenter's website) containing amusing drawings to illustrate the lyrics.
But what of the Music? Well rich melodies permeate throughout and each song possesses a magnificent hook line that will leave the songs whizzing through your head. Although the songs are keyboard-based, Parmenter utilises Midi systems to trigger samples of other instruments to produce the effect of a full band, and it is his sensitive touch that actually makes it sound like a group effort. Opening track Züccer is a joyous song driven along by repeated piano chords and even if the lyrics are a bit strange (its about a man grown into a boy who can plug a toaster into his navel...mmmm!) there is an innate jollity. Several of the songs are based on real life, particularly relationships. Keep Crying and Dating My Frankenstein, featuring a banjo which is perfectly right in the context of the song, are humorous vignettes of certain aspects of, in the case of the former, dysfunctional affairs, whilst Starving is a lovely ballad about an unwanted break-up and Diamond Eggshell is about being out of one's depth. The lyrics are bitingly forthright and honest but Parmenter has attached them to music that is so accessible that one can easily sing along without even considering the meaning.
I Dig Your Head reminds me very much of XTC, a kind of off-the-wall song with the fantastic lines Girl I don't want your body but I dig your head. All Ways is a more straight forward love song played on the piano and although nice enough is rather forgettable. Sterilized, was a possible contender for the second Eyestrings album but ultimately rejected by the band. As such it is the most progressive on the album and a fine song to boot, perhaps the band were somewhat hasty in rejecting it, maybe they'll reconsider and perform it one day. Dream is largely instrumental and is more acoustic with a nice guitar part while No Matter How You Spend Your Day draws heavily on The Beatles for the accompanying background arrangement, although the melodies are all original. A great song indeed. I'm Just A Guy is a "categorical apology to the ladies", and although a serious love song contains my favourite lyric on the album: "I require lots of leeway, in that stand-up-when-I-pee way". The title track is also mostly instrumental, comprised of layers of keyboards it is the most obvious 'one-man band' composition in that it is clear that everything is keyboard generated. To my ears, even though it is a perfectly acceptable number, it does seem rather out of place on the album. Last track Come Along is the most anthemic on the album, and also the newest composition. With some great piano playing the piece is a great way to end the album although I think that Parmenter has been a bit restrained, in my opinion the song deserves a much bigger arrangement, really going over the top, excesses flying!
The Noble Knave can best be described as a pop-prog hybrid but one that never fails to entice, amuse and entertain. There are very few albums that I want to, or can, listen to over and over again but The Noble Knave is one of them. As soon as the last note fades I hit the repeat button and listen all over again. If you have even the slightest fondness for a good melody then I seriously recommend this album as in my opinion, come sun, rain, snow or gales, there is no finer way to spend an hour while the world marches on.
01. Züccer (3:32)
02. Keep Crying (4:30)
03. Dating My Frankenstein (3:12)
04. Starving (4:12)
05. Diamond Eggshell (4:09)
06. I Dig Your Head (5:36)
07. All Ways (4:48)
08. Sterilized (4:32)
09. Dream (4:13)
10. No Matter How You Spend Your Day (5:12)
11. I'm Just A Guy (5:19)
12. The Noble Knave (5:36)
13. Come Along (4:28)