Bio (condensed from iancookemusic.com/about):
Singer, songwriter, cellist, pianist – Ian Cooke has appeared in SPIN magazine, Finished #1 in the Denver Post Music Poll in 2009, and has been voted Best Avant-Pop for 3 years by Westword Magazine. Cooke’s 2009 album, ‘The Fall I Fell,’ has sold out of two pressings and has been re-pressed with a DVD with solo live versions of songs, videos, a 5.1 surround mix of the album, etc. His newest album ‘Fortitude’ was released in 2012 with national distribution with Sony/Red via Greater Than Collective.
Ian Cooke: (voice, cello, keyboards), Sean Merrell (drums, percussion), Ian O’Dougherty (guitar), Whit Sibley (bass)
A DVD with 5.1 Surround Mix of the album by Neil Wilkes with accompanying visuals and lyrics, instrumental versions mixed in 5.1 surround, live video for “Quetzalcoatlus,” animated videos for “Epilogue” and “Polycotylus,” and art video for “Microraptor,” a coloring book drawn by Cooke, and a digital download of the Antiquasauria font.
I have been a big fan of Ian Cooke and his band for quite a long time. I’m sure you can validate that by just putting his name into the search bar over there and seeing for yourself. His first album, THE FALL I FELL, is one of the most moving and gripping pop albums I’ve ever heard, much less reviewed. With its follow-up, FORTITUDE, Cooke & friends went a much more progressive-rock route, but Cooke’s lyrics still cut deep. After that one, Cooke did a few one-offs, including a song titled Quetzalcoatlus… yes, Cooke rhymed “Quetzalcoatlus” (it rhymes with “nautilus” if you were wondering). Ian O’Dougherty, the guitarist and media guy for the band told me that their next project would be an album entirely about dinosaurs. Seriously. Dinosaurs… and Cooke delivered. Antiquasauria is a concept album of sorts, all about every 5-year-old boy’s favorite thing in the world. All of the tracks are about individual dinosaurs, with the exception of the intro and outro, and “Extinction” which is really about all dinosaurs.
Musically, ANTIQUASAURIA is closer to FORTITUDE than TFIF, but it is not FORTITUDE part 2. It has a lot of the progressive rock feel, but Cooke’s cello makes a greater contribution on ANTIQUASAURIA than it did on the previous album, which I greatly appreciate. Not that FORTITUDE was without cello, but it wasn’t as prevalent as I’d hoped. I am a big fan of this instrument, ever since Nirvana turned me on to how it could be used in popular music. This is probably what initially drew me into Cooke’s music as well, was the fact that he was a cellist and the cello was so prominent on his first album. Quite quickly after that initial hook, I became addicted by the interplay musically of the band, Cooke’s amazing voice, and most of all by the lyrics Cooke writes. I still find it hard to name a song that is more poignant at describing unrequited love that “Music” from TFIF. You can read said lyrics if you want by checking out my review for that album, as I felt the need to type them out (and almost did a 2nd time now, they’re just that damned good).
Musically, I really enjoy ANTIQUASAURIA. It is still progressive, but more on the orchestral side. Sean Merrell’s drums are amazing throughout, at time soft and plodding along, other times thunderous and bold. I obviously am glad to find more of Cooke’s cello (though his piano accompaniment is top notch too) on this album. And O’Doughtery and Sibley are no slouches either. This band is just amazingly talented all around.
There is just something about ANTIQUASAURIA that just doesn’t sit right with me. It took me a good many listens to figure it out. When it finally dawned on me it was a very “duh” moment; I almost face-palmed myself. It’s the lyrics. That which so drew me in to TFIF, and later FORTITUDE, failed to capture me on ANTIQUASAURIA. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all of a sudden Cooke started writing bad lyrics. I mean, he rhymed words like Quetzalcoatlus and Parasaurolophus for god’s sake. I can’t even say Parasaurolophus, and he figured out a way to make it rhyme… by going old, old, old school and dropping some Latin on you.
It’s not the quality of the lyrics; it’s the emotionality of the lyrics. TFIF is mostly about unrequited love, and that is a great muse to write some gut-wrenchingly powerful lyrics. FORTITUDE has some love songs, and some songs about life, and overall comes from that place deep in Cooke’s soul where the powerful words hide. ANTIQUASAURIA on the other hand, does not; it’s more like listening to a professor with an advanced gift of gab teach a class. It’s a fun class. It’s an interesting class. You can learn all about various dinosaurs, including the famous Sue the T. Rex. In the end though, it feels very clinical. It’s really is more like a fun way to learn paleontology than an album I am going to turn up loud in the car (FORTITUDE), or leave for years on my phone on heavy rotation (TFIF).
Overall, I can’t say enough good about Cooke & band. Not only are they incredibly talented musicians, and Cooke an incredibly talented lyricist, but they go way above and beyond when it comes to what you get for your money. While many indie bands will sell you a download and maybe a physical CD if you’re lucky, Cooke sends you origami with your CD and DVD housed inside, along with a damned coloring book. A coloring book! Musically ANTIQUASAURIA was there for me, with movements that are spaced out (“Stegosaurus”), groovy (“Diplodocus”), a bit scary (“Tyrannosaurus”), and emotional (“Extinction”). It was that lack of emotional connection in the lyrics, that lack of a song that stabbed me in the heart and twisted the knife that made this not as strong. However, I would take Cooke’s lesser works over many, many other’s “greatest hits” any day.
Overall 7 / 10
Antiquasauria for sale: http://iancooke.bandcamp.com/album/antiquasauria
Antiquasauria site: http://www.iancookemusic.com