Telling a story through straightforward music and lyrics is rather simple in comparison to building something conceptual from the ground up, creating character profiles within verses, and developing a poetic narrative that isn’t limited to the sonic realm but extends itself into outright theatrical territory. The latter is what Christopher Meredith has set out to do with his new album Two Cities, and although it’s structured in a longhand fashion demanding a lot more focus on the part of the audience than the typical progressive effort would, this doesn’t make it entirely inaccessible. Two Cities compromises blunt concepts in the name of championing a return to the elaborate look of old school progressive rock, sans the psychedelia, which makes it a unique listen for sure.
The operatic influence over the way the narrative is developed in tracks like “Stand Up” and “The Heart of Love” inserts itself in tempo, tone, and the very manner in which these vocalists are attacking a verse. Meredith’s ambitiousness is ultimately what’s in charge of the show here more than anything else, and where others would have failed at the task of making something as stacked as Two Cities palatable, his charisma does him plenty of favors here.
There’s no disputing the compositional wit that Christopher Meredith has, and it’s especially evident in “Think Fast” and “Stand Up.” His depth is utilizing elements of irony, sarcasm, and even a touch of gothic humor where we’re not anticipating anything of the sort to come into play, but he doesn’t sound like he’s overreaching at all. On the contrary, his self-control is especially interesting to witness as we reach the conclusion of Two Cities, being that I think he could have gotten away with more fireworks at the end of the final act in comparison to what he does near the beginning of this LP. You can’t accuse him of copying another composer’s style, and I think that won’t be up for argument as this record finds its audience.
Two Cities is a multidimensional offering by all measurements, but it’s also one of the more credible progressive listens that I’ve had the pleasure of taking a peek at in the past couple of months. Indeed, its indulgences partnered with the grander scheme of things allows for a more brilliant interpretation of the story Christopher Meredith wants to tell in this album. I admire his willingness to push the envelope on all levels here, and you can’t go wrong with the boldness of everything this record has to offer, from tone to timbre and beyond.