Wednesday, 23 May 2012

#165 Jethro Tull - Aqualung

Jethro Tull aren't, if you ask most people, a band who instantly come to mind when heavy metal is mentioned. They are, however, a band who seem to recieve a lot of  respect from the metal community in general, and the many mentions, cover-songs and homages which a great number of metal-bands have produced is definitely a testament to this. Aqualung is one of the band's quintessential, and most recognised works.

To my ears, Jethro Tull have, and always will be a band who are undisputedly something else. Not so much by thinking outside of the box, but by completely negating to recognise the existence of a box. One of the few bands which I can fairly confidently say are genuinely unique, and actually be agreed with, Jethro Tull's sound combines an almost uncountable number of influences; folk, rock, and elements which I can't place, all of which work together to create an intricate, fascinating, but also highly memorable and instantly recognisable brand of progressive rock. Aqualung is probably one of the band's albums which I have listened to most thoroughly, and certainly seems to effectively showcase what the band do; Ethereal and pleasingly bizarre flute playing smoothly carries along the more conventional, but nonetheless still profoundly imaginitive elements of the music, with the guitar, drums, and other instruments managing both to sound progressive in the truest possible sense, but also to exude a rock and roll atmosphere in the way that they should, all the while catchy, and often also powerful, beautiful, and often a lot heavier than a lot of what was going on at the time.

Thematically, Aqualung is also an album of consistency but also juxtaposition, darkness with light. The cheery atmosphere often generated by the songs is countered by the sometimes dark, often bizarre, but always meaningful lyrics. That isn't to say that the album is, musically, unrelentingly cheerful - the title track, especially it's intro, posesses a twisted feel which doesn't rely on anything over the top or complicated to be as such. That's one of the things which makes Jethro Tull special; Not only are they very progressive, but manage it in a very honest sense - There isn't anything crude about it's wierdness, or indeed anything too far the other way - The album doesn't dip it's feet too deeply into pretension, or, for want of a better word, wankery. They are progressive not in being in a progressive genre, but by truly taking a sound and progressing it. Aqualung is a solid album with songwriting which genuinely rewards the listener, which is it's crowning achievement, on top of being so thoroughly

It's been interesting to depart from reviewing something which isn't overtly metal, and I hope that this adds a little bit of the unexpected to the range of things which I review. Jethro Tull are a fascinating trip into the progressive rock world, from a time when progressive really meant something, and I hope you enjoy it.

9/10. It's a bona fida classic.

Jethro Tull Official Site