The name Bjørn Riis might ring a bell for fans of Scandinavian progressive rock for he is the lead guitarist and main song writer for Norwegian band Airbag. After three band albums Bjørn decided it was time to release an album of his own. Being responsible for vocals, guitar, bass and keyboards himself, help came from his Airbag bandmates; drummer Henrik Fossum and Asle Tostrup, who handles loops and effects on Riis album; Lullabies In A Car Crash. When a band's guitar player releases a solo album, most people tend to think it might be in the direction of an all instrumental showcase of technical craftsmanship or sidesteps towards the more fusion and jazz rock side of music. I can assure you, neither of the two options applies for this album. Lullabies In A Car Crash sounds more like an ode or perhaps better a tribute to Pink Floyd. In fact, not really a surprise I guess, compared to the music Airbag is playing and the fact that Bjørn is the owner of the website called gilmourish.com, which has over 40 million visitors and counting.
The six compositions on the album are highly influenced by Pink Floyd and when you start listening to the opener A New Day, you could imagine this song as an instrumental opener for a Pink Floyd album from the seventies. But when the first vocal track follows; Stay Calm, it becomes hard to see it as a tribute, the acoustic guitar, the vocal intonation and basically the whole atmosphere breaths Floyd. The vocals are pretty close to Pink Floyd's too, but with hunches of Neil Young's laid back style. As a guitar player, Bjørn could replace Dave Gilmour instantly and the listener would not even notice. One remark for this composition is that you can hear a lot of parts Pink Floyd played in their composition. Constantly you get reminded of certain songs from the past. What goes for Stay Calm, basically also suits the composition Disappear, but still I get amazed by the professional way the songs are built and even more by the absolutely fabulous guitar solos. When reading the accompanied info, other references were bands like Marillion and Porcupine Tree. The first I totally see, but it took until Out Of Reach to hear influences of Steven Wilson. Still the guitars remain Gilmour. The Chase brings back our main influence, smooth guitars that gently flow into an emotional solo with long stretched notes followed by, hey, again a Porcupine Tree remaining part that moves back to the experimental sounds of keyboards and guitar that Pink Floyd made famous. All in all, it's an intriguing song, including a heavier part at the end. The final composition Lullaby In A Car Crash, has this feeling again; “from which Pink Floyd song is this part?” But still the outcome is amazing, a thirteen minutes long composition filled with strong guitars, recognizable parts that still work perfectly together.
Bjørn Riis is a Pink Floyd fan; and a big one. And to be honest I don't really care for the criticism that his music is too close to the music of Floyd or even for being a copycat. Lullabies In A Car Crash is a more interesting album than the British band has produced in the last three decades. Period. Well done!
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edtied by Robert James Pashman)
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