If I'm honest with you, I'd tell you that I'm very unfamilar with Tiles. This is their fourth album, and although I'd heard their name before, I really couldn't have told you what they sounded like. I think I had heard one song by them a few years back, but I don't have any idea if I even liked it or not.
Enter Window Dressing. The version I have is a special edition that has the main CD, plus a bonus live CD that is a bootleg concert when they were supporting Dream Theater a few back. The sound quality is actually pretty decent on the live disc, and it give those of us that aren't familar with Tiles a peek into their music before this new disc Window Dressing.
This new album was mixed by Terry Brown (Rush, Cutting Crew, Fates Warning), and you can definitely hear the Rush influence. I also hear a little bit of Dream Theater and King's X (especially in some of the crunchy guitar parts) influence at times. Overall, Tiles plays a great blend of progressive rock with some hard rock tendencies. Not to mention that these guys are fabulous musicians.
The album opens with the long, 17 minute title track. Not so sure this was the best of moves. The song is very good, but it has a few lulls that make me itchy to hit the skip button. I guess it's the progressive metalhead in me that finds it hard to swallow all the slow meandering that progressive rock bands tend to get into. The song goes through many changes along the way and actually grows on you after numerous listens...that is if you can stay with it that long. They often switch from hard rock to soft acoustic with long instrumental passages. The lyrics are actually VERY good on this song. It basically speaks about how what we see is not always actually true reality. Here's an example: "Faces I see/Tell little about/What to believe/Layers of window dressing/Barely hint at what's beneath/Covered up like paint on rust/Who to trust?"
"Remember to Forget" follows the opener and reverts to a more consistent hard rock sound. This song along with the next song "All She Knows" show the biggest King's X influences on the album. "Remember to Forget", as well as some of the other songs on this disc, have some fantastic vocal harmonies. This tune also has some great lyrical lines about forgetting the past: "Walk the slippery slope of the past/I choose to dress up my burden/Call it salvation as it drags me down/...Shackles rust as I release the past/Free from bitterness/Without looking back I can/Remember to forget."
The next song "Capture the Flag" has a great headbanging start to it, before settling into the rest of the song. It includes a prettily sung chorus, but it often reverts back to the heavier at times. The band makes great use of acoustic guitars in this song along with most of the others on the disc. They also do a really cool "speedy" vocal part for about 6 lines near the end of the song.
The next song "Tear-Water Tea" slows things down abit with a jangly guitar and violin track with a very nice vocal performance. Again great lyrics..."Words that wound and love that kills/Can't see the forest/For the trees distract our view/Answers written in a book ignored/Empty boats to captain through the storms/Expectation that beckon through a prison door." The song ends with: "Simple and pure/Silent recourse/Cleansing remorse reveals/Silver lining that shines in the tin/At peace with truth."
This entire album is very impressive lyrically. Not just because of the topics they address, but the beautiful and poetic way that they address them. They are worth reading even if you don't enjoy this style of music.
There are three instrumentals on this disc. Two that stand out are the breathtaking acoustic "A.02" and "Unicornicopia". The latter is a very mellow and moving track of mainly piano and violin. It sounds like it came straight from a movie around the World War II/Holocaust-era. It convey's sadness, but with a hint of hope in the delicate playing of the keys.
But don't go to sleep, "Paintings" is next and it picks up the heaviness and sees the band probably delivering my favorite song on the disc. More great lyrics abound here in the chorus: "I'm a fixture in time and space/As our old promises fade/Like the painting we see everyday/That hang in decay/So the familiar feeds neglect/Simply too plain to perceive/Color drains from the scenery/When routine courts apathy."
Picking best songs is tough, but I'd have to go with the band's more aggressive stuff. Songs like "Paintings", "Spindrift", and "Capture the Flag" are all excellent tunes. But then the haunting and somber "Slippers in the Snow" also begs for a vote. Honestly, there is no bad song on this album.
The design and artwork for the album was done by Hugh Syme (Aerosmith, Rush, Megadeth). The packaging is actually very wonderfully done and very high quality. The limited edition that I have even has a glossy cardboard cover that slips over the jewel case that includes the identical artwork as on the front and back of the jewel case artwork. My only complaint would be that the front cover has a little kid looking in the window of a clothing store, only to see a women putting on a pair of shorts with only her undergarments on. And on the inside cover that same women is taking off her shirt with part of her bra showing. I understand the analogy with window dressing, but I could've done without the risqué photos.
Overall though, this band has made me an instant fan. I've never cared for progressive rock too much, but I think I'll stop and take a closer listen in the future. I highly recommend this to fans of the bands I mentioned above (Rush, King's X, Dream Theater) along with fans of bands like Torman Maxt and Shadow Gallery. This is definitely not an album to casually listen once and form your opinion. It takes multiple, open-minded listens to let it sink into your mind. The reward for your patience is an album that you'll be going back to often. (Review by Matt)