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The Tea Club
General Winter's Secret Museum

Review By Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
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  The Tea Club sounds like a perfectly innocent and unassuming name but do not let the serene CD cover and band name fool you. As you will learn when you open up the General Winter's Secret Museum CD the sleeve enclosed and the artwork does get a bit more interesting and the lyrics are included to set your mind reeling. This band sings and plays with ferocity and purpose. While only three members comprise this progressive rock unit, they sound like much more. A full sound comes at you constructed with guitars, drums, and bass as it swoops down and sucks you into every hair-raising storyline.

The Tea Club is Patrick McGowan (vocals, bass, and guitar) with Brother Dan (vocals, guitar) and Kyle Minnick (drums). As things kick off the album you are immediately brought into the macabre with "Werewolves." This is a potent tool for mesmerizing you and creating interest and excitement about what you are hearing while intently listening to their own personal take on the legendary transformation from man to beast. Guitars, bass and drums thunder as Pat McGowan bellows "I just need a little time, this is my Mr. Hyde…well I am down and I am wearin' thin, I can't help but keep hurting you", as the words roll off his tongue they cut like a knife right through you. As all of this unfolds, all I can think of is a Halloween night where The Beatles meet King Crimson and they start jamming. This vision kept coming to me throughout the run of this CD. Low and behold, their biggest influences happen to be two of the bands I just mentioned, so there is no shock here, just a bit of validation from the perspective of a listener and music fan. This was the best song on the album and marvelous way to introduce themselves to potential listeners while simultaneously creating some interest to hear more.

I bet some of you are wondering where they came up with the title for the album. I am always pondering what the title and artwork mean. If it is not obvious and in this case, that applies, you have to wonder what the significance is and just how it all ties in to the big picture of a project. The term General Winter, is a name used for the horrible weather the Germans experienced while trying to invade Russia in World War 2. Pat McGowan then added in the rest of the title and the band loved it.

The title track of all things gets the boot because the band thought it did not flow with the rest of the album. In this case, they should have put it at the close of the album and I do not think removing that track was the best decision.

At times, they do pull off some beautiful Beatles like harmonizing so the thought process may have been that this would easily cross over to pop-rock territory. Regardless of those elements, the fans that listen to this music expect bombastic opuses lasting 7-12 minutes, it is the norm, the music is far from being top forty or pop and it does not take long after hearing the way the tracks come at you that they are doing their best to make a progressive album. If you want to hear the title track then visit the band's profile here http://mybandsmusic.com/members/680/ where you actually can listen to 15 tracks with the option to purchase and find out for yourself where they are coming from. If anything, it entices people to go check it out, so that is a positive gained from a somewhat odd decision to eliminate the title track.

Getting back to the rest of the album-it is solid, not a great piece of work but very good and this band has the potential to be great. What I heard was a steady blend of music that did tend to go back and forth in waves of varying sounds and emotions, which is the standard for the genre. The variations with rhythms, beats and guitars are interesting and definitely not something that you would hear on the radio…there are no 4/4 time syncopations or drum click tracks buzzing in the ear of their drummer, no way. Besides the lead off track, this album did tend to flow together too easily from track to track for this type of music.

What I think needs work here is to develop more complexity with the song structures they already have, which are excellent, by simply adding some layered keyboards or a driving Hammond B3 on a regular basis. With that, the entire picture could change and they may very well become the band they always dreamed of being. Again, this is just the beginning for them and it is a real good start. They wrote all the songs, which is impressive. For three people they make some noise and it will remind you fondly of some other great trios that have come and gone since the inception of progressive rock. They reached their goal to get a stripped down sound removing things like a flute and so forth. Perhaps on the next outing those things will remain with additional instruments to beef up their sound and then they will blossom, as I would expect.



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