April 1999 Vol. 3, No. 4
The members of progressive rock mantle bearer Dream Theater aren't content to sit back and gather dust between albums. To pass the time between recording and touring each of the band members has participated in fabulous offshoot projects over the last couple of years. After their band mates success and indulgence in Liquid Tension Experiment and the Rush tribute, bassist John Myung and keyboardist Derek Sherinian want a little something on the side to call their own.
Enter Platypus, the latest in a line of progressive rock super groups. Myung and Sherinian combine talents with drummer Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs) and Ty Tabor (King's X) to produce a fun and masterful - if sometimes over the top - musical exploration. While Liquid Tension Experiment was all about stretching the self-indulgent boundaries to the mind numbing point of breaking, Platypus focuses heavily on the songs rather than on a lengthy jam happy hour.
The lyrical and melodic threads are due in large part to the skills of Tabor, whose regular band King's X sets new standards for hard rock harmonies and the perfect blending of arrangements. His mark is all over this album from his distinctive vocals to the ringing guitar runs.
Platypus isn't just a rehashing of the King's X style however. These top notch musicians romp happily into many styles that they aren't able play in their "day" bands. "Blue Plate Special", an instrumental, has a nice 70's fusion feel to it from the throbbing bass lines to the theme and variation guitar and piano interaction. Chick Corea take note: this guys can play. They quickly change gears with "Chimes", which has a heavy new age calmness, then back to solid guitar driven rock on "Willie Brown".
If there is a friendly competition within Dream Theater, I would say that as a listening experience from beginning to end Platypus beats out Liquid Tension Experiment. Tabor and company still show off some incredible chops, but contain it wonderfully into a solid song structure. Liquid Tension Experiment, while brilliant at times, bludgeons you with their odd times and smothering arrangements.