Thomas White’s music CV bodes extremely well for any solo enterprise. The one time member of Electric Soft Parade, Brakes and occasionally Sparks boasts a wealth of experience, and he’s still at the spring chicken age of 25. The Maximalist is his second solo release, but the first to be the result of mostly studio-based toiling. The result is an ambitious and post-modern mix of influences, but not without its flaws.
The image of a solo artist can often conjure up the lone troubadour singing simple tracks, but White goes entirely in the opposite direction by assembling a band and stamping his authorial voice on the entire production. The Maximalist is crammed full of ideas and musically is never dull. White insists on wandering down some less trodden sonic paths rather than take the obvious choices.
To list every style of influence will take all day. We’re given an epic intro with a powerful dad/prog rock riff alongside minimalist electro; there are also echoes of Pink Floyd‘s Great Gig In The Sky in places. Some tracks are put together using cut and paste recording techniques but such experimentation doesn’t sit comfortably with the album’s more accessible moments, such as the cover of Warren Zevon‘s Accidentally Like A Martyr. But all this eclecticism leaves the album coming across as being messy, with little attention paid to how the tracks flow together. Ideas refuse to gel, epic moments spring from nowhere and interesting directions come across as musical sketches missing a punchline.
The album feels like it has its moments of pretension, though a glance at the sleeve (someone having raspberries crammed into their eye sockets) suggests all shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But it’s these deliberately brash moments that throw a spanner into the works.
It’s immediately obvious that the major flaw with the album lies with the vocals, and specifically the lyrics. White’s vocals generally lack the maturity and anger to deliver anything too powerful and the track about controversial author Sven Hassel feels like a sixth-former’s first stirrings of pretension than anything else.
Although the album is unpredictable, nothing stands out or keeps you coming back for more. White’s talent is clearly evident, but buried underneath a lack of focus and perhaps a desire to do too much. By mixing together such strong flavours it’s difficult to work out what the album wants to taste like; like a lot of rich foods it’s easy to admire what’s on your plate, but it can be heavy going in large quantities.