To say Tom Vek has something of a garage style is true in more than one respect – quite literally, as it turns out, as the bones for this record were put together in his own garage. To get a finished master, however, he had to graduate from sump oil and hub caps to a presumably smarter affair in Dublin, aided by producer Tom Rixton. Vek, however, performs all the instruments here.
Garage is also one of many musical styles that Vek passes through in the course of 45 minutes. He seems to be aiming for a world of sub DFA, lo-fi kind of punk funk, if that’s not too many terms to throw into one sentence! He’s also blessed with a voice that by turns enchants and annoys, at times closely resembling Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz.
Things start well. C-C (You Set The Fire In Me) is a sunshine song, Vek’s voice surprisingly rich and rounded. Hi hats and cymbals are well up in the mix, creating a rush of distortion over a minimal funk groove alluding to late 1970s Manchester. The track jumps out as a single, as does I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes, a blustery number minus some of the former’s pop sensibilities.
The tempo slows for If You Want, the lyrics alternating between poignant and nonsense – a trait that crops up frequently in Vek’s songwriting. One ‘nugget’: “If you want the truth then we’d better start lying”, sums it up perfectly.
If I Had Changed My Mind illustrates perfectly Vek’s ability to charm and irritate in equal measure. Above a wobbly funk beat, like something out of the mid west, his voice moves from a yodel to a croon before disappearing in a sea of white noise. It all feels over-contrived and mannered to this listener’s ears.
Rescue arrives in the form of The Lower The Sun, a full-bodied bass matched by a beat box type rhythm. Vek certainly knows how to secure a groove, but is not always convincing in what he does with it. Lyrically, depending on your interpretation, he gaffes frequently. Cover talks about a “Stanley knife smile, cutting into me”, and That Can Be Arranged offers the dubious compliment: “When I see litter on the streets I think of you, it’s the way you talk in twos”. Whether this is refreshing or irritating, you decide.
A real eye opener comes in the shape of the trance-folk fusion that Vek somehow secures to start Nothing But Green Lights, the first of two around the loose theme of driving. The dubby bass of the following On The Road backs the lyrics: “You said I was the handbrake” – even the glove compartment gets a mention!
You’ll probably have reached a decision by now on whether Tom Vek is likely to be your cup of tea. Even if you do persevere it’s likely you’ll find pleasure and irritation in equal measure, but at least he always provokes a reaction – a quality never to be underestimated.