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Music Review: Parallel Or Ninety Degrees – A Can Of Worms – The Best Of Po90 – 1996-2001

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It was this band that first revealed my ongoing inadequacies with computers. Way back in the last century, 1995 to be precise, one of my favourite prog bands Parallel Or Ninety Degrees posted an MP3 file on the internet. Try as I might I failed in the most pathetic fashion to download it. This was probably fortunate as I was using my employer's computer and the file turned out to be ridiculously huge.

Fortunately I now have this excellent two CD release to satisfy my never decreasing desire for quality prog rock. A Can Of Worms (Progrock Records 2009) tells us that it is the Best Of Po90 from 1996-2001. As descriptions go, this is spot on. Not only that, it contains many previously unreleased recordings. The CD is, of course, a far easier concept and has fortunately caught on. So insert disk, press play, lie back, and enjoy. Yep, even I can manage that.

The album notes tell, in amusing detail, the story of a band that sadly remains a little overlooked outside of their loyal fan base. It was also a band with more line up changes than the average Manchester United League cup team. The notes explain it all whilst telling us that they were formed in Yorkshire with the intention of ‘creating a modern mainstream rock band that sneaked progressive music in via the front door’. The idea being apparently ‘to become famous and make a lot of money’.

Among the original members was one Guy Manning but he left just prior to the first album The Corner Of My Room. This record is represented here by the inclusion of “The Media Pirates”. It wasn’t until Afterlifecycle that Po90 really began to take shape. It was also the album that alerted my ever eager ears to the band and as a result, almost cost me my job.

A great story around the band's name is revealed in the notes.  They were regularly asked at gigs which band would be playing, Parallel or 90 Degrees. Another sees the band 'borrowing' enough gear to record Unbranded Live over a weekend, before returning it all nicely back in its boxes to the blissfully unaware rightful owner in time for Monday morning.

The collection opens with “A Man Of Thin Air” from the 2001 album More Exotic Ways To Die, quite possibly Po90’s finest hour. Renting a cottage in the ‘middle of nowhere’ they produced something quite exceptional. Unfortunately subsequent sales didn’t reflect this.

The main writing force behind Po90 is Andy Tillson who has done an excellent job compiling, and re-mastering this set. “The Single” from The Time Capsule (1998) eases in and leads to the powerful opening to “Unbranded” the title track from their album released the following year. This was the one that really saw Po90 push the boundaries and touching on thrash punk, speed drum, and bass, and ambient trance, all cunningly blended in with prog.

No More Travelling Chess (1999) gives us the excellent Peter Hammill track “Modern” whilst The Time Capsule (1998) re-appears courtesy of the stand out “Promises Of Life”.

The second disk opens with the “Afterlifecycle Sequence” including “Dead On A Car Park Floor” and “Lifecycle”. It also includes three tracks from the lost Po90 album A Kick In The Teeth For Civic Pride which remains, I believe, unreleased. The set closes with “Unforgiving Skies” from The Time Capsule.

In the words of those annoying television adverts, this set is exactly what it says on the cover. This is a 'best of' with enough added goodies and excellently entertaining notes to satisfy all fans of Po90. It would be wrong to stop there of course and it has to be emphasized that this should also extend to fans of progressive music who missed out first time around.

The fact that this has been chosen, and re-mastered by Andy Tillson himself adds even more weight. Look out too for a wonderful previously unreleased version of "Blues For Lear". Truly exceptional stuff.

As a result of this set landing on my doormat, I looked up the band's website and found some great news. Firstly, the reunion rumours are true and the band is making some appearances during this summer. Secondly, you can listen to this underrated band without crashing your modem. Now that's progress!

You can find Parallel Or Ninety Degrees on their official website.

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