A few months back I had the opportunity to review a four-track EP from the Dutch quartet Modest Midget which I though had a lot going for it and I suggested the full CD release should be good. Well I’m happy to say I was right, the full CD release entitled The Great Prophecy of a Small Man is really good. In case you missed the other review, Modest Midget consists of Lionel Ziblat (vocals, guitars), Richard Zoer (vocals, bass), Artis Orubs (drums) and Tristan Hupe (keyboards). They’ve been together since 2007 and explained that prog fans seemed to really get off on their music. That’s not surprising since they manage to incorporate any number of proggy embellishments in their quirky musical approach.
Some might call the music of Modest Midget as Art Rock or Prog-pop or any number of other labels but whatever you call it, it sounds really cool. None of the thirteen tracks on The Great Prophecy of a Small Man is very long, in fact the longest is a mere five and half minutes, but as always it’s what the band does with the time allotted that counts and in the case of Modest Midget, they really seem to like to play with convention. The disc begins with “Follow the Noise” [:55] a cacophonous sound clip that ends abruptly leading into “Contemporary Ache” [5:18] a kind of musical history lesson that will remind many of bands like Split Enz. Musically the tune takes its cue from different musical eras and styles mentioned in the lyrics. The references I made regarding their four song EP are more prominent than ever here; tons of musical influences; everything from the Beatles to Caravan. It would be a mistake to view these compositions as simply pop fare given not just the influences but the effort put into musicianship and arrangement. It’s clear that mastermind Ziblat is going for something a little more than that. Listen to a song like “Baby” [3:05] and you see that these are little pop symphonies in a style that Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys would be proud of I think. They’re bright, breezy and up-beat with a hint of mischievous Zappa-styled quirky-ness with musical accents provided by clarinets, saxophones and violins. Songs start in unconventional off-kilter ways and take many unexpected turns. It’s all on display in “Back from my Trip” [3:34] with its many musical change-ups or even more so with the three instrumentals “Coffee from Yesterday”, “Jorge knows…” and “I Came, I Saw, I Left” where the band are able to stretch out a little and inject even more strangeness.
Modest Midget have really delivered on the promise of their initial EP. As their first official CD release, The Great Prophecy of a Small Man is masterful accomplishment that will certainly appeal to fans of bands such as the already mentioned Split Enz and other Art Rockers like them. Prog fans in general will find much to appreciate here as well given the musical intricacy of some of these compositions. Recommended.