about%20-%20jpg.jpg reviews%20-%20jpg.jpg interviews%20-%20jpg.jpg gigs%20-%20jpg.jpg cd_review_district97_hybridchild001006.jpg
"District 97 is the only Progressive Rock band in the world to feature an American Idol finalist and a Chicago Symphony Orchestra virtuoso cellist" declares the press sheet. An intriguing statement, but is the former fact a selling point within said genre District 97 have aligned themselves? I mean, American Idol?! What would be the UK equivalent, Gareth Gates taking over from James LaBrie as vocalist of Dream Theater? The mind boggles, so over-hyped, contrived Cowell-infested karaoke pop contests aside, I spin this disc with a little apprehension. What initially strikes me is the subpar production. Sure, it's adequate but the kind of sound one would expect to find on a band's demo, not a fully-fledged label release. The second thing to hit me is the tedious and cheesy repetition of the "I don't wanna wait, I don't wanna wait, I don't wanna wait, wanna wait another day" during the opening bars of the first track to the point where it verges on cringe worthy, almost as if lyricist/drummer Jonathan Schang was devoid of inspiration to think of any other words. That said, the song does actually evolve into a more likeable composition with nods towards 70s prog influences utilised in a contemporary manner, in a similar vein to Bigelf. Matters continue to improve over the next three tracks as the music diversifies further. The press sheet would have you believe District 97's music also contains elements of "Meshuggah-inspired metal" but that only manifests mildly in some of the polyrhythms deployed, not at all in the crushing heaviness of said Swedes, for District 97 are far from a heavy band. Up to track four the album, to be blatantly honest, doesn't really grab me musically, despite some subtly innovative twists and turns within District 97's prog aesthetic, but the second half of 'Hybrid Child', tracks 5-14, a ten part concept piece titled 'Mindscan' with a 27+ minutes duration, is where the band begin to shine. Clichéd as fuck in a prog context with its tenuous and imitative conceptual underpinnings, 'Mindscan' is otherwise a very engaging listen which makes me wonder if the band would have been better advised releasing just this in the form of a mini-album rather than litter the first 28 or so minutes of the release with what sounds like filler. The production doesn't improve for 'Mindscan' although the compositional abilities of the band, namely Schang (who wrote all the music as well as lyrics), does. Mellow and atmospheric keyboard parts are interwoven with heavier passages (though not too heavy, remember?) into a fairly engaging whole. So what of that main selling point on the press sheet - "...an American Idol finalist and a Chicago Symphony Orchestra virtuoso cellist"? Well, Katinka Kleijn's cello is used to good effect throughout, and Leslie Hunt is a fine vocalist but will anyone give a vague fuck that she was an American Idol finalist? I think not within their target prog audience, so listen to 'Hybrid Child' free from such knowledge. Not a bad effort for a debut album, it's just a shame the quality of music on the second half is compromised by the first.
The Laser's Edge
Review by Mark Holmes
25th Oct 2010
1) I Don't Wanna Wait Another Day
2) I Can't Take You With Me
3) The Man Who Knows Your Name
4) Termites
5) Mindscan Parts I - X
"Not a bad effort for a debut album, it's just a shame the quality of music on the second half is compromised by the first."