9 August 2014

Thomas Truax - Trolls, Girls & Lullabies

Some artists are best experienced than on vinyl; this is not saying that their studio efforts are not up to scratch, it just that their live shows are just so good that it sometimes overshadows the songs themselves.  Sir Thomas of Truax was at one point such an artist for this writer for a long while.  His first few albums were interesting, but compared to seeing the man go around a venue singing in people's faces, the live Hornicator and Sister Spinster bringing the songs to life is really interesting.  I have seen him in many venues and he has never failed to bring a smile to my face.  But recently the studio work has been matching the live performances as well and there has been notable increase in the quality of the recording. The man is constantly on tour and goes around Europe (he is an American who is now based in Germany) and tend to visit the UK at least twice a year.  This album is his seventh studio album and comes after last year’s 'Monthly Journals'. This album is based on the play Peer Gynt.  For people that do not know, Peer Gynt is a play by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen.  It is one of the most famous plays in Norway and Sir Thomas was asked to make the music for a German production of the play.  Now as I have not seen the play before, you will have to bear with me in my reference points.

Starting the album is "A Little Like Peer Gynt", this is a soft and relaxing introduction to the album (and to Sir Thomas as well).   It is the gentle introduction to the story and also given that at the end of the play one of the characters is singing a lullaby then the song is making sense.  It is also blending of reality, fantasy and surrealism; just like the play and some of pervious songs by Sir Thomas.  "Always A Dreamer" is the next track and this is the obviously Gynt strutting his stuff and how he is taking no prisoners on his way out of this world.  It is a blues stomping number that makes the foot instantly tap. "More, More, More" is a song that sounds like your heading to hell in a debauchee bender that would make Caligula raise his withered eyebrows in shock.  It is another stomping number that is incredibly enjoyable and with the full band behind him, it sound incredibly rich as well. "Crazy Me" is the fourth track and it is just Thomas, various ladies floating in and out of the song and the guitar, it is a haunting piece of music that makes for a spooky jewel in this album.

"Saxogramphone Morning" is a re-imagination of the dawn chorus, it is not a tune for me to be honest; but it is over so quick that it does not stay around long enough to make any bad effects on the album.  "Einen Schluck?" is a bizarre instrumental that sounds like it could be the music for a Monty Python computer game, but again it is over very soon.  The same can be said for the thirty second "Troll Intro" as well.  I am sure these tracks would have worked well inside the play, but outside of it there is no reference point to be made for the listener.  "To Thy Self Be Enough (Troll Song)" is back on the traditional TT song and it is a great song with the Hornicator given a new airing against some fantastic drum work.  Next is a re-working of "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" with drumming supplied by Brian Viglione of Dresden Dolls & Violent Femmes fame.  It is a surfer punk rendition of the classic tune which could have also been used on a Ren & Stimpy show, it is twisted and looping; in short I love it.

Another cover comes in the form of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" which is slowed down to a crawl and is changed to a sleazy, creepy and glorious cover.  I am not really a fan of the original (the Stones have never really done it for me), so with that being noted I have no shame in saying that this is probably the best version of the song I have heard.  He has nailed it and made it into his own beast, it is that good a cover. "Mütterlein" follows on and is an empty piece, it is sung in German (I think) and the music is full of tension and spaces for horrors to dwell.  I can imagine that this will be an important piece in the play, but without the play around it I cannot have a gauge on what it is all about.  However, the atmosphere of the song is unnerving and that is something that you rarely get in modern music; well done Sir Thomas!  "Angelic Girls" is the penultimate track of the album, starting with a gentle strum of a guitar and a chorus in the background.  Much like "Mütterlein", without the play it is hard to see where this is to be placed as part of the production.  But, yet again it has something of a mystery about that makes you wonder how that production much have appeared.  "Punishment & Lullabies" finishes the album and uses the same gentle riff as "A Little Like Peer Gynt" and it expands on the theme with a full band kicking in.  It ends the album with flair, style and it is also the song of the album as well.  A really great song which I am sure would have ended the play perfectly.

I really wish I could have seen the play this album was made for, it would have helped so much with this review in someways.  The music is as ever well played but there are some of the pieces which make no sense outside the play itself (they would have probably been used as something dramatic was happening, at least that is how my brain is trying to see it).  The two covers on here are great as well, but there is too much of a mystery about the whole project for me (where did the instrumentals fit in Gynt's tale and downfall) for this album to be anymore than a souvenir for the play that I will probably never get to see in the format that the artist/director and Sir Thomas would have performed it.  It is a brave move by TT as he states on the Bandcamp page for the album, he usually writes songs about his perspective of things, dreams and stories; so to be made to focus on a subject that is not from his own imagination was a new challenge.  It sounds like he is very proud of this work and so he should be; I just wish I could have the visual to link up with this work. If you are starting on your Sir Thomas journey, one of his earlier works might be better to start with; it is not a bad piece of work (far from it), it is just without its main reference point. 

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top Track - Punishment & Lullabies

You can purchase the MP3 version of the album here from Amazon

You can visit the Thomas Truax website here

You can also visit the Thomas Truax Bandcamp page here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Alternatively if you’re a Deezer user, here is a link for you

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