Man On Fire -- _Man On Fire_ (October Records)

If you listen to Rochester radio, particularly the Night Vision show on WITR, you may know the hot new single "Just Out Of Reach" from Man On Fire. In fact, the track will be featured as one of the show's Top 10 singles for May, a well-deserved honor. It's time the rest of us caught these rising stars.

The duo's eponymous debut album is an awesome, ambitious amalgam of all the best elements of dark, moody pop, New Wave, rock, and neo-progressive music, very possibly the most impressive debut album of 1998. (Yes, I know what month it is. I still mean it.) It is towering, over 65 minutes of dazzling performances and compositions, and we should encourage them.

If you paid very close attention in the '80s, you heard the influences behind Man On Fire's deep soundscapes, electronic percussion pulsing its support for the funky (frequently fretless) bass, dark synthesizer auras, and rippling and screaming guitar work. (Actually, if you paid very close attention in the '80s, could you explain them to me? I still can't figure 'em out.) You heard Peter Gabriel's elaborate catchy craftsmanship, Thomas Dolby's deep synth textures, and the practiced precision of Rush on their singles, so you can appreciate the atmospheric hooks of the radio-ready "The Rain And The Rainbow" and the ominous "Time Was Frozen." You heard Nik "Wouldn't It Be Good" Kershaw and his creatively rhythmic songcraft, traces of which appear on album opener "Internal Combustion." You were into Depeche Mode before there was an "industrial" rock genre, and you were into the instrumental mastery of Pink Floyd and Canadian superband Saga, so you're ready for the flute-laced funk of "Not Just For America," the infectiously danceable prog of "One To Live, One To Die," the moody instrumental "Hanglider," the gentle, soaring "High," and the evocative, beaty beauty of closing ballad "The One."

But even if you aren't into those artists, if you want to hear creative, catchy, and brooding synth-sheened rock with killer guitar work throughout, you can either take a poppy step backward and try to live through the '80s again -- and, really, wasn't once enough? -- or you can take a progressive step forward and warm yourself by "Man On Fire." For more information on this tremendous new album, contact October Records on the Web at www.mindspring.com/~manonfire or by phone at (770) 382-1081.

(Web-Only Epilogue: I couldn't count on my print audience knowing what neoprog was, so I wrote around that, reaching for a different audience than I might find on the web. For the rest of you, this is one amazing, funked-up Slab O' NeoProg -- check it out!)


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