Like a throwback to the early days of Hawkwind, Jethro Tull and other quintessentially British musical absurdists (even mythical speed metallers Sabbat), The Witch And The Robot deal in decidedly weird folk/prog fare (or should that be fayre), with enough quasi-mystical lyrics to embarrass a sci-fi convention. That said, it seems this particular bunch of prog-lovers, hailing from England’s Lake District, aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves, as even a cursory listen to the so-bad-it’s-kinda-funny opener -Giants’ Graves’ attests to.
Musically, they’re pretty impressive at times, and are capable of raising quite a racket when the mood takes them, like the psychedelic wig-out that lifts -The Beatification Of Thomas Aquinas’ above your common or garden musical dissection of a 13th century saint and natural theologian (what did we do in the days before Google?). On the flip-side, when they keep it gentle and acoustic, they make a passable folk ensemble, as on the ethereal -Rapture Of The Deep’, -The Puppeteer’ or the hugely enjoyable -The Best Free Show On Earth’, while -No Flies On Me (Ballad Of The Jam Head)’ takes the spirit of reggae and grinds it though a folk blender to reasonable acclaim.
Unfortunately, much of On Safari is let down by its lyrics and its more free-spirited extremes, like the ridiculous -A Crocodile Song’ and the execrable -Sex Music (Beef On Wax)’, a spoken word marathon that even The Velvet Underground in their heyday would have dismissed as a prog-rock gift too far. The Witch And The Robot have something interesting to say and to add to the 21st century musical canon: maybe if they find a producer strong enough to curb their worst excesses and unrestrained eccentricities, they can actually get it across properly.