There aren’t many records that I’d be prepared to say this about, but ‘Curious Electric’ is flawless. From the production, to the musicianship, the songwriting and the insanely good vocals, there’s not a single note of this 7-track mini-album that’s not perfect. No matter how many times I play this record, there’s not even an inkling of it getting old and the quality is so high that it’s quite honestly one of the best collections of songs I’ve ever heard. If that sounds like hyperbole then I’m guessing you’re not familiar with this record – but don’t worry, you’re not alone. Proceed should be a household name, but criminally that’s not the case.
That said, some of the members of Proceed are associated with household names even if you don’t know it. Bass player Tom Doyle has been enjoying success as a member of Don Broco and vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Dan Lancaster has been producing/mixing records for several years, some of which you may well be familiar with. Bring Me The Horizon, Good Charlotte, Blink 182 and Lower Than Atlantis have all been given the Lancaster magic touch, and not just the production either. Listen to Mike’s cover of ‘Visual Field’ below and take note of Lancaster’s voice. Then listen to Lower Than Atlantis’ ‘Had Enough‘ and see if you can spot any vocal arrangement influence at all… Perhaps even more surprising is that Lancaster has been involved with some even bigger names, having writing credits for the likes of Little Mix, Luke Friend and 5 Seconds of Summer.
For anyone who’s had the privilege of indulging in ‘Curious Electric’ since its release in 2010, Lancaster’s career trajectory shouldn’t be a surprise. Throughout this record, the production and strength of songwriting is second to none; something that at the time was an unexpected phenomenon, given that this was the band’s first (and tragically, only) studio record. The performance of the band as a whole is a machine working in perfect harmony, producing a record that is one of the most complete and well-rounded efforts that the alternative music world has to offer.
The clean tone of the guitars gives crisp precision to the math-rock-like riffs, which accentuate the non-standard patterns and interesting timings, but despite the lack of bite in the guitars, there’s still an underlying aggression thanks to the relentless rhythm section and the urgency of Lancaster’s vocal delivery. Each track is a journey, rarely repeating the same section in favour of progressive, interesting arrangements and this gives the record an organic, living quality that never gets old.
There’s also the small of matter of Lancaster’s vocals. At the most basic level, his range is immense and his tone sublime, but it’s more what he does with his voice that puts him in the elite vocalist category. Lancaster’s melodies are like rogue pieces of chewing gum – they’re a bugger to remove once you step into their path. Far from being cheesy or cloying, he’s able to construct patterns that are unpredictable and challenging, and this sophistication makes them moreish and irresistible. It’s little surprise that written songs for the likes of 5 Seconds of Summer and Little Mix with such an impressive ear for melody.
Dan Lancaster’s production skills have made him a valuable commodity in the alternative scene and his success in this field is bittersweet. It’s amazing that he’s built a fantastic career for himself, but from my own selfish standpoint, I find it tragic that a band as majestically talented as this don’t have more original music to offer the world. At least we still have ‘Curious Electric’ as an agonising reminder of how impeccable Proceed were and the strength of Lancaster as a songwriter and vocalist.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing ‘Curious Electric’ I implore you to give it a try. It truly is a phenomenal record.