Listening to this album, it quickly becomes apparent that Thomson are big Teenage Fanclub fans. Very big. So it’s no surprise to see them signed to former Creation Records head honcho Alan McGee’s new label, Poptones. As the man himself says “I’ve been putting out the same album for 19 years”.
So on first impressions it would be easy to dismiss Alan and David Thomson, two brothers from Somerset, as fey whiny indie boys with a Big Star fixation. Easy, but misguided, as there’s a lot more to Thomson than meets the eye. Opening track Suicide for instance introduces itself with several thrashes of guitar before launching into some slightly dark lyrics about “peeling away the skin”.
Although tracks such as Nuclear Love and Blue Soup don’t move too far away from the ‘close harmonies/jangly guitars’ template, Pixallated Mexican Sun melds the introduction to Oasis‘ Cigarettes And Alcohol to a Nirvana bassline before bursting into a chorus as sunny as the song title would suggest. However, it’s when Thomson start to experiment with their sound they really start to shine.
The delicate steel guitar and lovely plucked acoustic of Sheila McGee (whether this is a tribute to a relative of their boss is unclear) is almost effortlessly moving and would make one want to rush into a field to lie languidly around under the sun’s rays. If it wasn’t February of course. Tracks such as this one and Bay Of Silence (also featuring that rather irresistible steel guitar) recall none other than Turin Brakes and it is these quieter moments that are the highlights of the album. Final track How We Have To Live is a fitting closer for the album, with some bleak lyrics (“a new war, but same as before…someone said it’s legal to kill if you’re wearing a uniform”) and spiralling guitar work.
If there is a fault here, then some of the songs do tend to plod along a bit (Gina being a prime example) and this isn’t the place to come if you’re looking for startlingly original songs. However, as McGee says, you know what you’re getting with music like this – if it ain’t broke, why mess with the formula? There’s certainly enough promise here to suggest that Thomson could do for Poptones what Teenage Fanclub did for Creation. A name to watch, for sure.