It Bites - 'Map Of The Past' (Century Media) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Russ P   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 04:25

it_bites_map_of_the_past_176pxDespite having a present day association with the progressive rock scene It Bites were always a band that defied categorisation. When they first burst onto our TVs in the latter half of the 1980s they were a short haired pop band with a guitarist that pulled in fans from the rock scene by virtue of his Allan Holdsworth-like soloing. Their second album saw the band become a little more proggy and the hair was now in ponytails. By the third album their hair was shoulder length and the guitar had moved from just beneath the chin to knee level. 'Eat Me In St. Louis' was the band's heaviest album and the added swagger and confidence (arrogance?) of the band's frontman Francis Dunnery meant that it was also their last.


For 16 years.


Until, in 2006, It Bites recruited singer / guitarist John Mitchell to front the band. 'The Tall Ships' was the resulting album of first new material before original bassist Dick Nolan left and was replaced by southpaw Lee Pomeroy.


'Map Of The Past' is the second studio album by the revived It Bites and is also their first concept album. Before even listening to the album I'm put in mind of Marillion's 'Misplaced Childhood' but unlike that album, the tracks here, for the most part, don't segue into one another to create one huge tableau.  'Man In The Photograph' sets the mood in a subdued manner unrecognisable as the It Bites of old but more like Pink Floyd's 'Outside The Wall' with a bit of Ray Wilson era-Genesis thrown in for good measure.


The guitar riff of 'Wallflower' however is classic It Bites as is John Beck's keyboard playing. Perhaps surprisingly this track, and a few others like 'The Big Machine', remind me of Winger in the chorus department. And perhaps that's less this band emulating Winger and more Winger's flirtation with prog on tracks like 'Rainbow In The Rose'.  Insanity follows on 'Map Of The Past'. The vocal is vintage Peter Gabriel but the verse is a schizoid time signature that makes the riff to 'Old Man And The Angel' look easy. Another strong poppy chorus combined with complex prog and classic It Bites-isms pretty much sums up where this band is right now.


'Clocks' is the first ballad in a swingy 'Yellow Christian' type beat but slowed down to give a very different kind of feel. It's evocative of old It Bites but also very new given what vocalist John Mitchell brings to the table.  'Flag' provides another unexpected influence: Utopia. Although as with the previous song this is successfully fused with a classic 'Black December' It Bites sound.


'Cartoon Graveyard' has an Elbow flavour about it, which isn't that surprising, as Peter Gabriel seems to be a big influence on both Guy Garvey and John Mitchell. There's also something of Honeycrack feel about it. Perhaps due to the Queen-like harmonies that grace both this song and 'Send No Flowers'.


The latter half of the album, whilst still bathing in the classic tones of yesteryear It Bites, seems to spend more time delving into the band's newer John Mitchell influenced sounds. So there's a little more Genesis and Peter Gabriel in the music. It's more softer and more reflective typified by 'The Last Escape' and especially 'Exit Song' which is comes full circle and is as stripped down as the album opener.


I've been listening to this album a lot. I've had to. I'm a dyed in the wool old It Bites-er and haven't given any serious time to the revamped version. I've got a lot of memories of the Francis Dunnery incarnation and no memories of this current lineup. And perhaps that's what this new concept album is partly talking about - nothing can take away the power of my nostalgic memories. They might even grow stronger. Still, for those of us not so solidly shackled to the past 'Maps Of The Past' is a very good album and is certainly well worth picking up.