Tom Williams & The Boat - Teenage Blood
- By Nick Hagan -
- Apr 23, 2012
Galloping straight outta darkest Kent, Tom Williams and the Boat's 'Teenage Blood' is awash with more sex and death than a zombie freshers' week.
Like jam and cheese, such a combination may prove disconcerting to many at first glance, but it's one that has long offered a potent alchemy for artistic souls of a certain ilk. Williams harnesses these forces to produce what could only be described as psycho-folk: a cack-handed, super-morbid Leonard Cohen from the Garden of England.
The record's title track kicks off things with a nice, Bright Eyes-esque stomp, but is ultimately relegated to one of the album's most pedestrian experiences thanks to a plain-as-porridge chorus. It's not until the skewed, darkly surreal third song 'Little Bit In Me' that the TW that so captivated with last year's brilliant 'See My Evil' rears his freakish head for air.
Pollock splatters of small town weirdness, suicide and ultra-violent grandmothers are lyrical bread and butter for Williams – if there's any truth in all this brutality he's got a family tree that makes Josef Fritzl's look positively healthy. Either way, there's a comic edge to the song.
In fact, the palette throughout 'Teenage Blood' is largely composed of various shades of black and red, colouring an oddly compelling blend of the everyday and savage flights of fancy. Lines veer between the genuinely harrowing to the fairly silly (see: 'I've been keeping myself busy at work and I've joined the basketball team' on 'My Bones').
Nevertheless, there's a strange sort of honesty to this music. The album's ten tracks are brimming with rabid romanticism and lovelorn cries for affection we can all relate to, and navigating the pile up between lust, sadness, madness and images of fruit juice in supermarket aisles is nothing if not entertaining.
Dirty sheets stream of consciousness 'Trouble With The Truth' carries on the upward trajectory, featuring some absolutely gorgeous melodies recalling Arcade Fire at their most epic. The troubadour's singing style is refreshingly unfussy, at times reminiscent of The Cure's Robert Smith and punctuated with rough-edged bellows as powerful as a gut punch.
'Like You' could be courting mainstream radio playlists if it wasn't for the charming opening line 'I'm surrounded by death', while 'There's A Stranger' offers a brief, breathtakingly sad foray into acoustic balladry.
The production on 'Teenage Blood' is also really solid, doing justice to Williams and his band's crescendos and enveloping the listener in the more delicate moments. Harmonies and flourishes are given acres of space to spread their wings, as best exemplified on the wonderful, cinematic 'Summer Drive' and its dreamlike chorus.
'Emily' is the sweet cherry on top of it all, the beautiful, simple antidote to all the kitchen sink psychosis that precedes it.
Tom Williams & The Boat may remain a curio for some time to come, but, a duff start aside, the magical, weird and heartfelt music on 'Teenage Blood' marks the band out as something really special.
What's more, it also establishes Royal Tunbridge Wells as the UK's musical sexdeath capital, which I'm sure we can all agree is long overdue.
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