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For Absent Friends: The Big Room
(Red Sea - 2002)
Category : overlooked
4 stars

(this is an altered version of a review I originally wrote for the website of the Dakka Dakka radio show)

For Absent Friends (FAF in short) is a Dutch Neo-Prog band, or rather, they used to be, because the Progressive elements are as good as gone on 'The Big Room'. Indeed, when I compare this album to the only other CD I have heard from them (namely 1996's 'Tintinnabulation'), you might think it's not the same band.

I have to say that I have the impression the band feels more at ease with less complicated songs like these. In this case the expression "less is more" is really at its place, as they are masters at writing Melodic Rock and Pop. The songs are fabulous if you're into old-fashioned commercial stuff à la Bon Jovi, that is. Not that they really sound like Bon Jovi, mind you. For Absent Friends are far better songsmith, to start with. Actually, even though the second half of the CD is slightly less interesting than the first half, there's almost no track on it that I would call filler material. After carefully listening to the CD a few times I feel there's only one weak track on the entire CD and that's the sappy ballad 'If Love' that pushed my blood sugar levels in the red. As far as I'm concerned they could've left it out, as the other ballad 'Silly love Song' is exceptionally strong. Another killer tracks is the opener 'We can not', with its very memorable chorus that's perfectly supported by a wah-pedal guitar riff.

In my opinion the band most resembling FAF is Crowded House. This is in part due to the type of vocal melodies and the voice of new vocalist Hans van Lint who has a very melodic and melancholic sounding voice and a similar emotional (but not overdone) singing style. Imagine Crowded House heading somewhat into AOR-territory, and you get an idea of what your typical FAF-song sounds like.

In short, this is something for the Pop, Melodic Rock and AOR fan alike. Neo-Proggers might still want to lend it an ear well, as long as they keep in mind that it's very light on the Prog side.


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