Expose Online - Peter Thelen, 14/7/2022
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Hats Off… and with one listen to The Confidence Trick, the listener should not be surprised that this full length album was a couple years in the making, with the musical and lyrical depth presented across the thirteen cuts. The theme of the album seems to be one of overconfidence, and our failure to recognize the consequences of following those who are overconfident, including some pieces related to historical realities, as well as others that follow a futuristic or science fictional theme. And then, of course there are a handful of great instrumental tunes interspersed between those with heavy, psychologically intense lyrics, all taken together representing a respectable cross-section of what the band is capable of creating.
This time out, the band is a trio of de-facto bandleader Malcolm Galloway (keyboards, synths, lead vocals, guitars, lyrics, and programming), Mark Gatland (bass guitar, Chapman stick, backing vocals, guitars, keyboards, and synths), and Kathryn Thomas (flute, alto flute, and backing vocals). Throughout the album one can hear drums, and they sound like the real deal, though nobody is credited with them, so one can assume they must have been programmed, so that certainly represents outstanding work at the drum computer. The music is composed by all three.
The set opens with “Silence Is a Statement,” and we are almost immediately introduced to Galloway’s urgent sounding vocals, and then a superb instrumental break of progressive rock proportions with a powerful keyboard solo. “Back Where I Started” continues onward with the insightful lyrics, wholesale changes and more proggy tendencies, though the song is one of the easiest to like in the entire set at just under five minutes.
The first instrumental is “Perky Pat,” an electronic tour-de-force that is as busy as it is interesting, leading into a dark and bluesy “World War Terminus,” with equally dark and disconcerting lyrics. “Pretending to Breathe” is the next instrumental, six and a half minutes of proggy odd-meter turns and switchbacks with an interesting shimmering textural feel, leading into “Another Plague,” a soft, dark, almost spoken piece until the two minute mark where it bursts forth with rocking energy and pushes to the edge of art-rock mastery, with a beautifully eclectic guitar solo as the piece trails off. That’s followed with not one, but two captivating instrumental titles, “Refuge” and “Interlude,” accounting for nearly fifteen minutes. The title track and “All Empires Fail” both sport the heavy, thoughtful lyrics mixed with full-on progressive rock tendencies, both informed by 70s Pink Floyd to varying degrees. In all, The Confidence Trick is a powerful musical statement on a a number different levels, and the beautifully illustrated booklet includes all of the album’s lyrics.
Prog Magazine - Chris Roberts
London-based, Hackett-endorsed duo earn their spurs... should certainly boost their own confidence ... Galloway swings from muted to theatrically emotive, and the musicianship is consistently impressive... The ambitious array of sounds here are really saying something.
Progradar - John Wenlock-Smith
Music is at its best when it challenges you to think and to possibly to change your perception and understanding of things and situations. Well ‘The Confidence Trick’ (the new album from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate) may just help you in that respect. The album is partly conceptual in nature and, certainly, many of the songs share a common theme, often viewed from different angles...
There are some fabulous passages in this album and the musicianship is very fine indeed with some fabulous emotive guitar lines and stirring synth passages and keyboard playing from Malcolm Galloway. There is also the excellent bass and Chapman stick playing of Mark Gatland and the hauntingly beautiful flute playing of Kathryn Thomas, whose classical training adds gravitas to the tracks on which she is a part.
A definite highlight is the excellent World War Terminus that explores how war unfolds and how these overconfident, yet mostly misguided, individuals believe they can win the chosen conflict when often they simply cannot or never could. Yet, such is their self belief (mostly misplaced), that they make rash decisions and unsustainable actions. All of this is contained through the excellent and challenging lyrics that abound on this album.
... It is almost criminal when music like this really warrants a far bigger platform and focus to be heard.
... Those open minded individuals who embrace new music will find loads to enjoy and appreciate in this album, chock full as it is with excellent music and quality and intelligence. This really is a very rich seam in which to mine for nuggets of gold.
The album also has touches of modern classical and minimalism in it’s tracks best shown on Refuge, which is based on the family experience of Malcom’s Grandmother and her treatment at foreign hands. The track is instrumental but still conveys much, including a sense of joy and also wonder and gratitude for those that helped her to survive.
The title track is also very strong indeed and is a perfect summation of the albums themes and songs. All in all this album really impresses with some fabulously fluid guitar parts, majestic synths and solid musical backing throughout.
This is definitely a step further for the band and, impressive as ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’ was, this one is both totally different and also even better. ‘The Confidence Trick’ has so many worthy tracks like Perky Pat, Lamprey Lava and All Empires Fall, all of which show the skill and flair the band have in the music they craft and create for our aural pleasure and long may such a fine creative streak continue.
Album Of The Week award - Bobcast - Not The American Prog Show, Progzilla
"The best new prog of 2022" - The Alternative Alternative
"It's brilliant" - Garry Foster, The Prog Rock Files
"Truly amazing" The Prog Mill (Progzilla)
"Wonderful" - Prog Rock Files
"Brilliant - I love it... Outstanding” - Banks Radio Australia
"Welcome back Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland with another cocktail of musical genres that defies pigeon holing, there's plenty here for everybody's tastes and the professionalism in the album structure and delivery is 10/10 all day long. The excellent Kathryn Thomas on flute is the icing on the cake. Hats off to the MG's!" - Caerllysi Music
Prog Archives / The Progressive Aspect
...They have forged a fine reputation on the UK prog festival circuit and have steadily built a strong following. New album The Confidence Trick showcases not only the infectiously dynamic side of their live performances (which made me once describe them ' tongue-in-cheek, of course ' as the 'Otway & Barrett of Prog'), but highlights their complex and multi-layered musicianship...
The result is a musically diverse, contemporary and intelligent album of prog rock with many other musical genres merging in. Over thirteen songs, of which five are instrumental, HOGIA hold up a lens to the world around us in these challenging times. Often using sci-fi stories as allegories for our fears and experiences, the band have produced not only their most mature work, but also their best album to date, in my view.
Silence is a Statement is a very strong melodic start to the album. Lovely, chiming synthesised guitar notes sparkle over a deep electronica rumble, followed by piano and Malcolm's initially hushed vocals, before Mark's powerful bass and lively drums take the song on. The vocals build confidently, and the increasingly defiant lyrics drive home.
The dangers of not speaking out against oppression is the powerful message here. Silence is a statement of compliance and acceptance and can only strengthen the oppressor. The importance of both speaking out as well as speaking to each other is emphasised well. It's a song that has been played live for almost a year now, often opening the set, and it always works well, dynamically. However, the studio version positively shimmers and shines.
Back Where I Started is an immediate shift in style. Kathryn's flute flurries soar over a darker, keyboard-led background and heavy guitar chords ' providing an intriguing musical counterpoint. Malcolm's desperate and weary vocals recount a sci-fi tale of a time traveller who tries to fix events in history, but accidentally makes things worse. The album's thematic concept of cognitive errors, overconfidence in our abilities and failure to learn from past mistakes in order to avoid repeating them is laid out bleakly before us...
End of the Line outlines a story of a society who can no longer philosophically question their existence and future without the fear of conflict... Once again, Kathryn's lovely flute playing lifts the music from its melancholic sense of futility, created by the hypnotic instrumentation conjured up by Malcolm and Mark.
Malcolm's vocals seem to have a touch of Steve Hogarth weariness to them at times, whilst his well-judged guitar solo seems to offer a sense of hope...
Perky Pat ... mesmeric, full-blown proggy moments of exuberance which wash wonderfully over you through to a stately conclusion.
HOGIA like to mix instrumentals with vocal-led songs to create a flow and balance to their albums and Pretending to Breathe is such a track. Another atmospheric blending of prog and electronica that flows thoughtfully with nice changes of pace, ambient-like passages punctuating some enjoyable keyboard/synthesiser playing...
Malcolm's love of science fiction has been clear to see on previous albums and the genre is often a great way to capture the current 'zeitgeist'. Another Plague draws on his experience as a neuropathologist and tells the story of a new disease that makes people's faces seem to disappear ' starting with the most marginalised groups, or those we have less empathy for, but eventually spreading to us all. The story is based on the idea that the condition affects the 'fusiform gyrus' part of the brain, which is important for visual recognition. It turns out to be a powerful metaphor for both the COVID pandemic and quarantine/isolation, and how those judged as different or less important to society are dehumanised ... The music is dense and powerful, and Malcolm delivers a stunning melodic guitar solo. There are many layers to explore and ponder in this pivotal track.
Just as the extended instrumental Ark from Nostalgia For Infinity recounted the story of Malcolm's great grandfather's wartime role with the Ark Royal, Refuge is inspired by his great grandmother's escape from anti-Semitic pogroms and the Nazi Holocaust. The musical style and tempo attempt to match her journey from calm and peace, through fear and flight, then hiding and, finally, escape. It begins serenely with gentle piano before a sumptuous orchestral sweep of keyboards and synthesisers and through the story's twists and turns. This is complex, symphonic and cinematic prog of the highest order. Pulsating, dramatic and even dancing rhythms, and 'avant garde' touches appear, before another uplifting and climatic guitar solo and a hopeful piano coda. Even without the back story, this is a track to savour. It is a fine tribute to her positive and caring spirit in the face of such brutalisation, as well as the bravery of those who risked their own lives to protect a stranger. The parallels with the plight of the refugees of today are there for us all to consider...
The Confidence Trick is thematically at the heart of the album's message about overconfidence... It is here that that the lyrics and instrumentation are most integrated, and it is a real album highlight. Malcolm delivers more glorious guitar cameos, ably supported by Mark, as he wearily recounts how we get deceived time and time again by the 'confident incompetent' and the 'narcissistic slaughtermen'... The instrumentation is dynamic and assured, and the restrained anger of the lyrics, with their echoes of the angst of Roger Waters and even Pete Townsend, sadly offer no solution other than to stay alert.
Lava Lamprey is a short, jazzy piano-led instrumental with a twisty structure that Malcolm likens to being on an out- of-control ride at a nightmare funfair. It provides a transition from The Confidence Trick, into All Empires Fall, linking the idea of dictatorial power destined to eventually fail. It is another example of never quite knowing where HOGIA are heading at any particular time, which is very much where their eclectic charm lies.
All Empires Fall gives a positive slant on the view that even the most evil of dictators and regimes will eventually fail. It gives a sort of 'nihilistic realism' to history and as a physicist, I can relate to the idea of the triumph of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and how 'Entropy wins'. Strident guitar and stirring bass mingle with rap-like vocals and a modern, accessible alt-rock/pop feel with a catchy chorus...
It is just like HOGIA to throw a curve ball at the end. Cygnus is a sombre, reflective and down-beat ending to the album but also has great dignity. Accompanied by piano, Malcolm's heart-felt lyrics on the betrayal of NHS and care staff at the start of the pandemic, due to the failure to follow the recommendations of the Operation Cygnus viral pandemic preparation exercise, resonate strongly. In just over a minute, the loss of so many loved ones due to overconfidence of those in power is clear to see.
'We stripped the armour from our heroes, the stockpile cost too much, We sent them to fight, armed with applause. And it wasn't enough'
The excellent and expressive CD artwork design is by Malcolm himself, along with Mark, and demands a physical copy of the album in addition to any download. The music and imagery create a truly special and integrated experience to enjoy.
Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate have produced their best album to date with The Confidence Trick. Articulate and contemporary, and also as diverse and eclectic as ever, but showing a greater confidence in their musical abilities and vision. Progressive rock mingling effortlessly with electronica, classical and alt-rock influences.
An album that can be enjoyed in one immersive sitting, but with individual tracks that can easily stand on their own merits. The band have gained a growing and enthusiastic following due to their dynamic performances as a duo or trio, and their back catalogue has much to savour, but this release is a real step-up in my opinion. If you like a variety of styles in your prog rock and intelligent, thoughtful lyrics to ponder, The Confidence Trick is not only 'more than adequate'' It's blooming marvellous!
Here at GRTR! we are big fans of Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, enjoying what the band use to describe themselves as genre defying music. They have a prog rock basis but then wander off down many musical roads including electronica, classical, alt rock and more...
They seem to excel at these long instrumental pieces that get a story or theme over with the same effect as a vocal track. The music ebbs and flows, from uplifting piano and string sections, through to darker, bleaker passages, this piece of music is superb and one for headphones. ‘Ark’ of their last album is another fine example of the band’s epic historically based instrumentals.
... sublime guitar chords and riffs – shades of Pink Floyd at times.
The title track is another that delves into Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree territory. The mid-section is particularly sublime on the listener’s ears...
Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are one of progressive music’s best bands you have most likely never heard. Rectify that if that is the case as ‘The Confidence Trick’ is their finest musical offering to date.
Review by Jason Ritchie
The Confidence Trick is the sixth album from the always excellent Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate.
Generally described as progressive rock – though there’s so much going on with a Hats Off album I defy anyone to label them and that’s a good thing – there are elements of any musical genre you’d care to name.
As with a Hats Off album there’s a running central theme to proceedings. This time it’s based around cognitive errors, particularly overconfidence, and our repeated failure to learn from history.
Here on the Confidence Trick we have around seventy minutes of an eclectic mixture of thought-provoking lyrics, songs which range from bleakly stark and minimalist to straight up prog and everything in between.
Sprinkled in are some instrumentals – including the centrepiece of the majestic instrumental Refuge, which is inspired by Malcolm’s great-grandmother’s escape from the Nazi holocaust. After a quiet start it expands in to intense twisting and turning symphonic progressive rock of immense standards. A breath taking listen.
Silence is a Statement is an interesting opener. Melodic, electronic, washes of guitar and a thumping bass line with a powerful vocal delivery.
Back Where I started gives Karthryn Thomas a place to shine – and so she does. Her magical, atmospheric flute combining with then keys and some chunky guitar. She also features prominently on End of the Line.
Perky Pat is a progged-up instrumental with some fine synth work going on. Interlude and Lava Lamprey are another couple of instrumentals with the guitar and drums on Interlude making for a fine listen.
The title track is sublime with stark lyrics around repeated the mistakes of the past instead of learning from the past.
The Confidence Trick is overall a stunning album of so many different styles with thoughtful, deep lyrics exploring a tricky subject matter. As with other Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate albums it’s all done with consummate skill and an album which draws you in deeper and rewards the ears more with each listen.
There’s certainly nothing adequate here……..perhaps they should rename themselves Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Rather Jolly Good…..!
... Everything is simply priceless. Leaves you wanting more. And indeed, 'The Confidence Trick' album marks the best song collection I've come across so far regarding this band. Just appealing in its entirety. Considering the booklet's fantastic layout respectively illustrations so much the more something for your ears and eyes. It is worth investing some time.
There is a really charming atmosphere prepared for the listener all over. Malcolm Galloway's voice appears to be unique, for one or two this probably needs getting used to. A trademark in any case, still can be filed under sorta hybrid of singing and speech...
The album's title track shines with extraordinary playful guitars. And I'm always overwhelmed by the mellow jazz tinged Lava Lamprey flow, including some excellent bass lines... Occasionally reminding me of Tears For Fears and Talking Heads, and accompanied by those well thought out themes and messages, the band delivers more than one hour of entertaining music.
...Regarding the name: HATS OFF GENTLEMEN IT'S ADEQUATE evokes mind-pictures of the subtle English habit of self- mockery, the gift of self-deprecation that characterizes one who is paradoxically humbly self-assured enough to be modest about what is "Anything But" simply adequate.
"The Confidence Trick" is much more than "adequate". Rather it is also evocative: it evokes ideas and images from earliest times of hubris and narcissism, until the most recent, timely moments in which we now find ourselves... For these thirteen tracks, threaded with instrumental reveries, but mostly working within artfully expressed and poetic lyrics, convey the dangers and difficulties inherent in maintaining one's bearings amidst great odds of pressure and persuasion.
The music, nor the lyrics, are ever heavy-handed. Rather, subtle, suggesting, waiting gently for the rage and ferocity to be teased out, the disgust and revilement of betrayal by the overlords given the task of caring and protecting those most vulnerable...
The music, in all its variety, is quietly, never flashily, sophisticated, melodic, expressive, and germane to the over-riding theme- "The Confidence Trick" in which the narcissist and the beguiled enter into solemn agreement that the status quo of exploitation and murder shall be oh-so-properly and oh-so-mannerly maintained.
For me, the actual, literal story of Malcolm's great-grandmother Broni Krom set to music in this track, shines the clearest and most poignant light upon the intent of this album...
The album is thought-provoking, stirring, lovely, troublesome, maddening, literate, suggesting, provoking. It seems to me to be a collection of thoughts and sounds designed to push humans into action based on caring rather than on cashing-in or lording-over.
4.0 stars, "an excellent addition to any progressive rock music collection".
... HOGIA bears various influences on progressive, classic, electronic and metallic rock from which reminiscences come from PINK FLOYD, MARILLION and contemporary cinematic groups in fashion today. Texts on human errors and their exacerbated confidences painted in parables and 5 instrumentals for uncompromising rock art... HATS OFF GENTLEMEN IT'S ADEQUATE has released a varied album of contemporary progressive alternative music, an astonishing album mixing electronic sounds with moving classical passages, pledge of spleen and other introspection. Be careful not to miss this special group which gives a philosophical message on the world in which we live.