The Maximalist – thoughts so far

Review of the tracks Thomas previously posted from his new album at the Thomas White Myspace – Synapse Galaxy, The Weekend, A Bitter Pill, Look At Them (Guided By Voices cover) The Emerald Tree, Control (with Stuart Flynn)

This review also contains some Thomas White related links to audio + video.

The last time I “reviewed” Thomas White’s new songs was July 2008 – read here – Almost a year later here I am again. Patrick Wolf wrote his latest album exactly the way he wanted, with no regards to commercial success. Thomas follows the same path.

Instrumental Synapse Galaxy evokes an atmosphere of a vast expanse of space. That’s your first thought until suddenly funky beats come in and you imagine Madonna circa 1980-something will start singing any second (maybe Get Into The Groove) She doesn’t and the beats become more frantic encouraged by the barely contained bassline. You’re sure a whole fleet of spaceships is making their way across the universe at speed; as if escaping planet earth. Throughout the song broken up soundwaves chatter, maybe communications from the future, transfixing your mind. Somehow never tuning in, message not received. Suddenly they stop and a warning signal sounds…

The soundtrack to escaping a dying planet before it’s too late. As you listen your senses are transfixed as if you’re standing at the helm of the spaceship full of barely disguised tension. What has lasted in reality just under 6 minutes has transported you light years away. But you made it, in the end, didn’t you?

The most disconcerting disco song you ever want to hear. Listen on repeat play and the more desperate you’ll be to reach out and tune the dial to discover just what the constant radio chatter is. But instead you’re frozen in your seat, praying for a safe ending.

I’m guessing this will be one of the stand out tracks on the album and after playing it on repeat I can’t review another one at the same time… it’s completely filled my mind with imagery you could never recreate with lyrics. It’s not just a drum track, it’s so much more. Usually my favourite songs have lyrics and I want to type them out as soon as I hear them. With this, I just wanted to describe the place it took me to. I don’t really want to come back down.

Have been listening to Thomas White radio at Last FM (tune in) Also found more tags for him after reading through reviews of the last album for ideas i.e. Surf Rock (read more) When Patrick Wolf said Thomas was playing surf guitar I wondered what he meant. “Surf rock, generally instrumental in nature with an electric guitar or saxophone playing the main melody”.

I think The Weekend from the new album features some of that. It’s time to re-acquaint myself with the unique Melancholy of one half of the Brothers White. Musically, this has Electric Soft Parade stamped all over it, there’s no getting away from it. If listening to Patrick Wolf’s new album (featuring TW on guitar) made me miss them, this sure as hell does. It could be a long lost ESP b-side recorded by someone older, wiser and with more confidence in his creations. The start of the song evokes Saint Etienne (not a surprise as Thomas is such a big fan)

“I’ll sing for my supper, I’ll drink til I’m dead, I’ll drink to the weekend, hope in my head”

Mournful guitar arrives to smooth away the bleakness and that hope is expressed in spoken words:

“there is no joy in looking ahead, there is nothing laying in wait for us but death and destruction… what has passed was a nightmare best forgotten, so we stare down instead towards the far off river… where dancing rays of the autumn sun make shining rings on the water, and for a short while we are almost hypnotised into believing that the present can last forever, and the past can be wiped out, and the future avoided”

At last thoughts of stark reality are calmed. Holding onto a perfect moment that when recalled can make everything alright. Wishing you could go back there because the memory is still so real, as if frozen in time.

TW: “Due to some surprisingly encouraging reactions to the new stuff recently posted, I’ve taken the dubious decision to post some more”.

After drinking until all senses are dead during The Weekend we are now taking a seaside trip of which he writes: ‘A Bitter Pill’, a mini-epic concerning (among other things) a lovely afternoon spent walking the promenade in Eastbourne.

“I took a bitter pill and I was complete…”

The sun is high in the sky as the colours become brighter. Heat shimmering in the distance as the lilting drumbeats + guitar drift across the water. Thomas sits behind his drumkit in the bandstand enchanting passers by (Eastbourne Bandstand) This has got to be a single just for the homemade psychedelic video possibilities. If this was released on a major, thousands could be wasted digitally cloning him as he plays all the instruments at the same time.

The song seems to end so quickly even though it’s over 4 minutes, requiring repeat playing. Even more catchy than ESP’s Cold World, resonating with warmth and without a care. One of the best things he has written. It’s a proper pop song, with strings. Much, much better than when you actually go to the seaside and the sky is grey and the highlight of the day is a cup of coffee. It’s more fun listening to this instead.

The Guided By Voices cover – Look At Them – is from the 1996 album, Under The Bushes, Under The Stars (hear the original on Spotify) Soundclip of original (scroll down to play)

It’s crippling, never really knowing
We’re huddling, where it’s always nice

And plus there is a flame
A flame that should be hot
In spite of being small, and being still
Following wherever you will

Look at them, they’re sensitive
And they inch out, look at them

Thomas has the original vocals down to a T on the chorus, in the same way he replicated Dennis Wilson’s vocals on End Of The Show (session track) and Billy MacKenzie’s on ESP’s cover of Blue It Is. It’s almost as if he captures their essence vocally.

I imagine he’s been singing this for years, to himself at least. Ever the faithful fan, paying tribute to his heroes.

Next bit for the Thomas White afficianados, which I would hope you are. For example…

End Of The Show, Dennis Wilson

Thomas White session – comes on near the start of the recording: MP3 here

Original version: youtube

TW’s Blog 07/03/08: “If anyone can find a lusher song in this world, show me it please. He sounds completely out of it, hardly pronouncing certain words, but his singing is beautiful and the arrangement is heart-stoppingly vast”

Blue It Is, Billy MacKenzie

Electric Soft Parade at the 2007 Tribute concert: youtube

Original version: youtube

Back to the new album and The Emerald Tree. After surviving the journey across Synapse Galaxy (and Eastbourne promenade) at last your feet are metaphorically back on safe ground. This instrumental tells the story of a lush new world where the only language is that of nature and the sound of the wind as it blows through the trees. Lakes of pure sparkling water are surrounded by magical forests, the whole scene illuminated by the brightness of the moon.

This is an album of many different moods – dark and light – sometimes in the same song. The same goes for genres which are forever changing so you can never become distracted and there are yet more songs to come.

Outrageously different to everything else on the album so far is Control featuring Stuart Flynn. A tale of a mystery love who isn’t worth wasting any more time on, perfectly enhanced with programmed beats and distortion. No feelings are spared as he waxes lyrical.

“Can’t have that man, can we, no… Me fulfilled and happy? No…”

“Have another drink, don’t think about it, it’d never work, you’re better off without it – work it out in your own time, get me out of your mind, I must have control…”

You really wish it could have worked out but Stuart is brutally honest. There is no happy ever after. Or is there…

When the Brothers White were on a major label they were marketed in a certain way. You could equate it to the way Patrick Wolf has said he felt on a major label. Both were expected to upkeep a certain image without the danger of offending anybody. So Control could never even have been an Electric Soft Parade b-side. In the same way Patrick couldn’t have dreamed about releasing the songs he wanted to. They didn’t have the artistic freedom. Thomas has created the most out there composition on his album and isn’t going to be told he can’t.

Thomas most definitely has Control at last. Fulfilled and happy? Yes!

The End – may all other reviews use many fancy words and be terribly professional (Thomas hopes!!) Also looking forward to lots more fan reviews because they’re the best…