Before reviewing this album I´m going to resume the career of this peculiar scottish band, this will help us to know more about "Playing Dead".
Citizen Cain was created in 1984 when, as a trio, recorded some demos and played some gigs in Londres area. But they had to wait until 1993, the year when the first official album "Serpets In Camouflage" was released. It was a great album with influences of the most intricateGenesis music Gabriel era. George "Cyrus" Scott from Edinburgh, was the writer of the strange lyrics and owner of a voice extremely similar to Gabriel´s although more lineal and with less variation. Anyway the voice is perfect to accompany dynamic rhythms and complex melodies that recreate the essence and magic of good old Genesis. The musicians were: Stewart Bell: Keyboards, Frank Kennedy: Guitars, David Elam: Bass and Chris Colvin: Drums. This work was very criticized and praised at the same time because of its excessive similarity with Genesis sound and a lack of personality, but nowadays it is considered as a classic album because of its high quality.
After some problems and line-up changes, the band releases in 1994 "Somewhere But Yesterday", a more complex and risky album, where the band penetrates more than ever into the sound and production of the most prolific Genesis stage, but not the melodic Genesis of "The Cinema Show" but the complex Genesis of "The Battle of Epping Forest" with risky instrumental developments, lots of lyricism and a great instrumental and vocal work without any commerciality. The survivors Cyrus and Stewart Bell are accompanied by Nick Arkless: Drums, Andy Gilmour: Bass, and Alistair Macgregor: Guitars. In spite of that strong influence we can notice more personality in the songs and more power and magic in the long and complex tracks, they had a bright future. The reviews were very good but not the sales and the record label SI MUSIC disappeared. All of these events destabilized the band again.
In 1997 they released (after some delays) "Raising the Stones". Now as a duo with Cyrus: vocals and bass, and Stewart Bell: keyboards and drums (with some helps). They went on with the complexity of "Somewhere..." but "Raising the Stones" is very monotone and it hadn´t the magic of earlier albums. Extremely long tracks with lots of subdivisions. Vocals and keyboards (Stewart Bell is a great keyboardist) are predominant, but there was a lack of color and lots of monotony, so the album is hard to listen to in a row. It´s a good album, very elaborated but they overdosed all the compositions with the same formula and there wasn´t any evolution, so this album is a step back in their career.
Now, ending 2002 the band has released the long awaited "Playing Dead" (it was planned to be released in early 1999). You can imagine all the troubles that the band had. I´d read that they were working for long time on the new material and doing lots of auditions looking for new guitar player and drummer. All of this and the conviction that Citizen Cain has a great potential, made me buy this new album. But "Playing Dead" is nothing but a continuation of "Raising the Stones". There´s no evolution and the tracks don´t provide the magical world that they greatly recreated in the two first albums. The compositions and the instrumentation are very elaborated but they´re extremely “close” to their style and peculiar sound. There are nine songs, very long most of them and with even longer titles, that walk the musical labyrinth that the band creates and it seems as if they don´t want to escape from. Stewart Bell and Cyrus are only accompanied by Phil Allen, but this guitar player doesn´t provide new sounds or fresh air.
This is a good and hard to listen work, it isn´t commercial and it´s more personal and complex. I recommend it to lovers of hard and introspective atmospheres with some melodic sympho sounds and tired of simple refrains. People who don´t know the music of the band won´t enjoy with this album, and the old time fans will find it interesting but also disappointing.
Some anecdotes and curiosities:
- I don´t know why but the band changed the name in Raising the Stones (Xitizen Cain (with a x)). In the same album Cyrus was Xyrus.
- All the bizarre artworks have been designed and painted by Cyrus himself.
- In 1996 Mellow Records released a compilation album titled "Ghost Dance" with unreleased tracks taken from 1984-86 era, the trio line-up before "Serpets In Camouflage". Supposedly it was released without permission of the band.
- The new remastered release of the band´s whole discography is a must for lovers of old Genesis sounds.