Only the ass of Event’s Scratching at the Surface jewel box overtly indicates that prog-rock’s afoot: that Inside/Out stamp (yes, the very label that’s home to Jersey’s Symphony X, whose most recent platter was a reading of Homer’s Odyssey starring Geoff Tate’s gym teacher as the peregrine hero). The hints, once you get the frickin’ thing opened, come in slightly stuttering, swinging beats—as in “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that . . . “— beneath straight-ahead rawk numbers that would normally be partial to mere timekeeping from their drummers; enveloping ambient effects positioned so well you’d swear Bill Gates was wielding the Pro Tools; and the subtle, shadowy tango between melodies and rhythms. A cursory listen wouldn’t cause a Garbage fan to bat a false eyelash. SATS is Event’s second rock and roll record, their third record overall. And it’s their best yet.
Likely aware of the small-dicked neo-progger/fellow traveler who would dismiss their sojourn into concise, linear songcraft as so much “inauthenticity” and MTV bootlicking, these four Berklee boys form the Janus-like face of a new neo-prog movement whose members want to use their superpowers largely for good: that is, by churning out sounds fans of Alice in Chains and Incubus might actually wanna listen to. Yet Event never forget the random Dream Theater casualty, loitering near the comic book spinners, with exactly $17 in his bank account and a jones for juicy musicianship in his heart. The result this time out—with production quality reminiscent of the handiwork of the afore-implied Butch Vig, whose mania for pushing sound so far to the front of listeners’ speakers will likely someday result in his having to perform live in every fan’s bedroom and/or car—reaches as far back as last week’s hit parade. See “Under My Skin” (not the Sinatra billet-doux), a tweener of a tune plugged into head-bangable fortissimo riffage and hip-hop-inspired rhythmics, with Dave Deluco’s throaty, plaintive delivery skimming the surface. Naysayers set on shit-talking Event’s dreams of accessibility will be flattened by the sound—simply complex, stronger than vinegar.