If the guys in Spock's Beard had gone to my high school, there is no doubt they would have received severe and painful admonishment for being the proverbial "band geeks." Taking their name from the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk and crew inhabit a parallel universe and do battle with an evil Spock with--oh no--facial hair, this California quartet has become something of a standard-bearer of progressive rock. With technical skills that edge dangerously close to the sonically frigid overkill of wankers such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, Spock's Beard somehow manage to remain warm and approachable while still pursuing the never-ending solo. 2005's appropriately titled live effort, Gluttons for Punishment, showed that these guys have a sense of humor lacking in some of their stodgy influences. Led the last few years by Alan Morse, who took over after his brother Neal decided to find the Lord, Spock's Beard is reminiscent of Genesis after Peter Gabriel flew the coop, finding sanctuary in a lighter approach. By integrating some pop into their protracted jams, Spock's Beard has found an emotional and friendly way to deal with their high school demons.