Windmill - Epcot Starfields
The concept album died a slow and painful death in the 1980s, quite rightly I hear you cry. There have been a number of attempts to revive it over the intervening years (mostly involving Damon Albarn) but 2009 seems to have heralded a vigorous rebirth. First up we had The Duckworth Lewis Method with their glorious paeans to the game of cricket and in the pipeline is Rick Wakeman’s The Myths, Legends and Husbands of Katie Price , a sure fire winner and Christmas stocking filler for any discerning teenage girl. Somewhere in between comes Epcot Starfields, an album inspired by a childhood visit to the Epcot centre in Florida by Buckinghamshire’s Matthew Thomas Dillon aka Windmill.
Musically this is a lovely, piano led album with liberal doses of brass that paints a vivid picture of a trip to Epcot on a sun-drenched Florida day. The closest comparisons can be made to the dream-like music of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips and, in truth the music holds up well against such luminaries, especially on album standout ‘Big Boom’, a joyous ode to the famous Epcot sphere and ‘Ellen Save Our Energy’ a cheery reminiscence of the Ellen’s Energy Adventure ride.
At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that I will be giving this album a big thumbs up but there is one major flaw: Dillon’s voice, a horribly cloying, American affectation making him sound like Wayne Coyne’s whiney younger brother. A stronger, more sure voice would better suit the lush arrangements and interesting lyrics and would make the whole album a far more pleasurable listening experience. Having said that, the fragility of the voice somehow works perfectly on album closer ‘Spaceship Earth’, a tortured rumination on the eventual demise of the human race. It is such a shame that the rest of the album is not equally blessed.
I’m sure Dillon’s voice will find its fans and, if you are one of those, then you will almost certainly love this album. Me? I’m keeping my turntable warm for Mr. Wakeman’s epic.