The Princess of the allen keys is the title of a newly released album by Noisy Diners. It is subtitled The history of Manto. To the Crotchety Team that presents a four-part puzzle: what, we wonder, is the connection between ‘princess’, ‘Allen keys’, ‘noisy diners’ and ‘Manto’? It’s a puzzle we have been unable to solve and we’d appreciate your help.
Here’s what we know so far …
They seem to have released just the one album. According to a review on rateyourmusic.com it is a concept album about:
… the life of the legendary fortune-teller Manto, daughter of Tiresia, mother of Osco together with the god Tiberino and founder of Mantua.From a Google Translation of a review on rateyourmusic.com
There is a Wikipedia page about Manto (daughter of Tiresias), which largely corroborates the album review, although, as with most legends, there are several somewhat differing accounts. There is no mention of a princess, though, never mind Allen keys.
A Google search for ‘Manto’ delivers links to the Indian/Pakistani author, Saadat Hasan Manto, about whom much has, apparently, been written. There is even a film about him. This post’s headline image shows actors playing Manto and his wife.
There may be further clues in the album’s artwork and credits but a thick fog of incomprehension remains in the Crotchety mind. Is that a mechanical princess on the cover? Is she assembled with Allen keys? Or could that be a portrait of Lily Allen? She certainly has a disturbing earring.
If the visual clues are unhelpful, perhaps the auditory elements are more informative.
The Princess of the Allen Keys sets the stage with Tiresias, an orchestral overture that leads into a prog rock song in vintage Genesis style. This segues into Manto and Tibrys, which introduces a female vocalist as Tiresias’ daughter, accompanied first by a jazzy saxophone and then rock guitar. It feels as though we have moved on from Genesis and have embarked on an urgent journey – an Exodus, perhaps, via the river Tiber.
With the music flowing seamlessly on we find ourselves embroiled in a two-part Duel. In Part I a flute blows wisps of Jethro Tull through thick synthesised air; at the intermission an acoustic 12-string guitar provides a refreshingly sparse interlude; and then Part II expands the sound stage again with Renaissance keys and vocals. A bewitching story is unfolding around our ears.
But look, there’s a heavy mist upon the lake. When we try to row across we find we have taken The Bad Boat and an expansive soundtrack from our old mates, Genesis, accentuates the drama. As the mist closes in around us we curse The Weak Fog and sing a simple song to keep our spirits up. We are nearly at our destination.
And, then, finally, we meet The Princess of the Allen Keys. Her domain is the string of islands within the lake and she promises to tell us our fate. But the producer has chosen an ambiguous ending: before we hear what will befall us the scene fades and the sound dies away, the princess’s words melting into silence. We are left disappointed and unsatisfied.
Overall, The Princess … is an excellent example of vintage prog rock – the Genesis grape with subtle overtones of mediaeval music and folk tunes. The orchestral passages and multiple vocalists have added a sparkle that Peter Gabriel et al. never found. My one complaint is the lyrics. The Crotchety ear is not sharp enough to hear all the words but those that do come through are unsophisticated, verging on puerile at times, and that detracts from the listening pleasure.