You Can Have Him (I Don’t Want Him)

Of this song from the recent Midwinter Picnic (24th Jan) Thomas says: “This is a song Nina Simone made famous, it’s written by Irving Berlin, one of earth’s most amazing songwriters ever, it’s called You Can Have Him (I Don’t Want Him)” Photos at the end of this page (Thomas + Alex)

Thomas White talks to The Argus Think of Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol and Liverpool. There is a sound synonymous with each place – baggy, electronic, trip hop and Merseybeat – because at some point in history something in the urban fabric fused with the locals’ outlook to create a unique musical reference. For all its celebrated creativity, Brighton has never had a sound to call its own. That may be because the city’s artists have preferred to furrow alone or because its transient nature means many successful bands citing Brighton as home were not born here.

Tom White, however – half of Electric Soft Parade and one of the city’s biggest exports in recent years – has Brighton in his blood; he was 16 and studying for his GCSEs at Hove Park School when he was offered a record deal. Seven labels and countless albums later, White, now 25, has his second solo album due in March. Among the many things he has had on his mind since the album was finished almost six months ago is that it’s time Brighton created a musical reference for outsiders.

TW: Brighton’s the sort of place where people are just a little too self-conscious. They don’t have that kind of ego and there is not the history of somewhere like Manchester where the music scene gets talked about in a very specific way. There are tons of great bands and tons of great records – certainly in the past ten years there have been hundreds of Brighton bands.

It started with Clearlake and Electrelane. Then there was us and British Sea Power, The Maccabees, and now The Agitator, a hip hop two-piece I am in love with. It’s a guy called Derek Meins, who used to play with Eastern Lane from Berwick, but he moved down here, and Robert Dylan Thomas, formerly of The Maccabees. Brighton’s [music scene] doesn’t call itself anything. I think it should. It’s nice to have something people outside of the city can reference.

White confesses his theory is not the finished article: “I guess talk to me after the next record and I’ll have it nailed,” he says, jokingly. But he is certain it should come from within. “I don’t want it to be imposed by someone like Paul Morley [the former NME critic], despite the fact I love his pop equations: St Etienne x De La Soul = whoever”

White is currently working on a new Electric Soft Parade album due to be recorded in the next six months and has recently completed a solo album, The Maximalist, whose title nods to his current creative approach to songwriting.

TW: To me, a maximalist is someone to whom anything and everything is material for their art. It’s like when you ask someone what kind of music they listen to and they say ‘a bit of everything’, but that actually means being truly open to everything. It doesn’t matter whether that particular thing is something you hate that makes you say ‘I never want to make a piece of music that sounds like that’. Or whether it’s something you’ve listened to for months and it goes on to inform stuff you do.

White says maximalism is reflective of the way many musicians in Brighton are creating, so an album celebrating its ideology might be just what the city needs.

Feb 12th Prince Albert show at As homecomings go, this was notable for its sincerity; Tom White of Brakes and Electric Soft Parade fame felt the love and gave it back – in spadefuls. With bro’ on keyboards, dad in the crowd, and friends all around, it was hard to do anything but. Did this make for over indulgence? Not where it mattered; White and band gave a tour de force of lush, new prog rock anthems delivered with the panache you’d expect despite all the wine-toting and glitter-flecked posturing. Back atcha Mr White, one to remember!

Jan 28th Prince Albert show at Thomas White, better known for his involvement in popular local chart-botherers Electric Soft Parade and Brakes, tonight takes to the stage in front of the now packed upstairs room dressed in what can only be described as a Technicolor dream coat. It serves as an announcement that things are about to start getting psychedelic, with colourful visual displays and tunes Pink Floyd would be proud of to boot. Considering this is only the second show that the band has played together, they complement one another superbly as a unit. Thomas is the focal point, yet his band adds depth and solidarity to embolden the songs with a real sense of purpose and direction.

Jan 28th Prince Albert show at The ArgusPhotos by Ian

The Electric Soft Parade frontman and Brakes guitarist’s forthcoming second album is called The Maximalist – referring to someone who takes everything as material for his art. And this term certainly encompassed Tom’s set, which went from psychedelia to soul jams and lounge music within its first 20-minute medley of songs.

Clad in what looked like a flowery set of curtains, with an asymmetrical haircut that took the barnet sported by The Human League’s Phil Oakey to its natural conclusion, he cut an impressive figure on the stage, further proving his musical chops by taking on bass duties as well as vocals.

The rest of his set combined covers, including Guided By Voices’ favourite Look At Them, and a selection of self-penned songs. Starry Night #4 largely eschewed lyrics for a hypnotic vocalisation which grew in intensity throughout the music. And the brilliant The Runaround, from debut solo album, I Dream Of Black, underlined Tom’s writing skills, feeling like three or four great songs in one.

TW’s cover of ‘Look At Them’ mentioned above has inspired an excited blog post, with videos, at The Fly: Chided By Voices Click link for the full thing. Some quotes…

So there I was listening to ‘The Maximalist’, the new solo album from Thomas White – he of Electric Soft Parade and Brakes fame – and thinking “Yeah, this sounds like an alright collection of mangled post-indie pseudo-Americana rockage that’s both a beneficial addition to the oeuvre and an alright listen” when suddenly I was humming along with a song I knew! Yes, that’s an exclamation mark! I really was disproportionately excited. I need to get a life!

You see, I love being ambushed by a song I know well when I’m least expecting it… as the song I knew continued fighting its way out of the speakers, I went into a state of nerd-ecstasy-induced bodyshock. My ears knew what it was, but my brain didn’t… I started flapping my arms around and rasping “Guided By Voices!” in a dry throated way, like a recently resuscitated person might do.

Because I am such a colossal Guided By Voices fan, this kind of sensory blindsiding is a super-special treat. Thomas White’s cover of ‘Look At Them’ from their 1996 album ‘Under The Bushes Under The Stars’ (produced by Steve Albini and Kim Deal amongst others, it was the first GBV album to be recorded in a proper studio, and the first of many to be falsely billed as their “crossover” album – sorry, I told you I was a geek) is really rather good. As GBV covers go, it’s a pretty straight-laced rip of the original, which makes it nearer The Strokes’ authentically drunken ‘A Salty Salute’ than My Vitriol’s spaced-out ‘Game Of Pricks’, if you’re interested. Shit. You’re not are you? (if you are, click the link!!)

Anyway, nice one Thomas White. We GBV nerds are impressed.