Thumpers are from London, and boy do they have the Sub Pop and C86 style down pat. Comprised of duo Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson, Jr., their debut album Galore has all of the ethereal twee vocals and light-hearted melodies of indie and not much else, but that’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable time.
Kicking off with Marvel, Thumpers instantly demonstrate their appreciation for the ’90s pop of The Pastels and Lush, sounding, well, quite lush. The keyboards wash over the listener in a gracious, and the trumpet backing could’ve been off a peppier Everybody Is A Star by the former band. It’s a style brought to life by Friendly Fires several years prior, and on Galore, Thumpers make it fresh, pretty, and neat. The following track Dancing’s Done is the opposite of what its name belies: thoroughly danceable and thoroughly entertaining. It’s not something with which you’ll be done after the first spin.
Twee pop elicits sighs and furrowed brows in a musical generation that grew up on Death Cab for Cutie, and Thumpers is not immune to this effect. Thumper is not as heartstrings-abusing as Ben Gibbard nor as ironic as Zooey Deschanel, and they’re also not as excessively capricious. In fact, Galore is a particularly classy affair: Thumpers could easily be the next band at KOKO on a Friday night that makes the bodies move in a haze of night-time ecstasy. Just take Come On Strong as an example: simple repeated phrases, sparkling electronics, and climactic tempos that beg for the floor.
Despite this power, Galore does have a few disappointing moments, especially in the first half. Sound Of Screams and the single Unkinder (A Tougher Love) are not anything that Friendly Fires and Chvrches that hasn’t been made in the past. Therein lies the hard part about making twee pop: it’s easy to make something bouncy, danceable and engaging, but when your song doesn’t stand out from the rest, it’s easy in turn to be forgotten.
Now We Are Sixteen is very misguided. The lyrics “everything seems better when we’re sixteen” is certainly a romantic idea, but to paraphrase James Murphy, when you remember the feelings of an overemotional teenager, you’ll likely think again. Now We Are Sixteen panders to a younger audience in a dangerous way by romanticising the hardest parts of being young as being the most beautiful, which espouses a very immature view of growing up. It’s irresponsible, especially in 2014, and pressures youth by putting pressure on what is likely the hardest part of their then-lived life as the most perfect, and how the loves you’ll have in life will pale to the first time. It’s a serious flaw and a black on Galore that shows Thumpers’ lack of experience and songwriting maturity.
Thankfully, side two of the album picks up with a string of hits in Tame, The Wilder Wise, and Roller. Tame is hilarious fun in the gibberish-sounding backing vocals. It’s a breath of fresh air that comes after a shaky first half, and hopefully Thumpers will continue on this track when it comes to future releases. The ending guitar solo is all pedaled-up, making for one of the strongest songs that the duo has released thus far. The Wilder Wise picks up where this energy left off, featuring an anthemic sing-along chorus that uses double-tracked vocals to great effect. Roller has a thumping, quirky rhythm in the vein of Zooey Deschanel or Bat For Lashes.
Galore closes with two comparatively downtempo tracks that will either be loved or ignored. Running Rope rollicks along with the rest of the album and has a bit more guitar influence. Together Now is longer with instrumentals that close off nicely, but the “live for now” lyrics are patronizing, which Thumpers probably didn’t intend. Overall, Galore has some fantastic moments, but remains a thoroughly uneven release with some serious thematic flaws that Thumpers will hopefully iron out by their sophomore album.