Music

Thumpers: Galore

For a moment, the darkness holds at bay and the band colors their world with tropical guitars and chanting vocals, a type of brief bulwark against cold, linear modernity.


Thumpers

Galore

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2014-02-11
UK Release Date: 2014-02-11
Amazon
iTunes

Barely audible from the surging bed of instruments arrive the first lyrics on Thumpers debut full-length, Galore: "Stay young." Cast in the grammatical imperative, this edict sums much of the contents of the record. The lyrics, contained in the appropriately titled song "Marvel" reflect the joy, the lush beauty, and, frankly, the insouciance of Thumpers optimism trails through the global pop universe. Sounding at times like Local Natives, at others like the best Dirty Projectors songs that never were, the band marshals songs of size, scope and heart-pumping sanguinity. For a moment, the darkness holds at bay and the band colors their world with tropical guitars and chanting vocals, a type of brief bulwark against cold, linear modernity. We will die, we know, but in the 11 songs of Galore, youth is a forever and possible orthogonal.

Rock music in general, but especially the recent boutique bourgeois trends of Late Indie Rock, does this sort of juvenile aesthetic well. We are held in a Levi's commercial while the Naked and Famous, or maybe Walt Whitman, or maybe both, tell us about our great rugged youth, an age that recedes before us even as we try recapture it. This can be, bluntly, for the self-aware, depressing. For anyone paying attention, bands like Foster the People represent some of the most cynical and useless contributions to the commercialization of youth culture in those 20 and 30-somethings who grapple badly with their diminishing relevance and overwhelming nostalgia. So what, then, is the difference with a band like Thumpers, and an LP like Galore, which traffics in these very tropes? Perhaps, it is the overwhelming size of the arrangements, or the yelping, angular danger of a track like "Tame", a place where the band winks at death with the lyric, "If we should die before we wake/ Don't leave our bodies that way." And perhaps it is simply the band's unstemmed belief in the project, a don't-look-down boldness that separates the brave from the silly. Even the album's cover art, three pairs of feet in the midst of tumbling down a sand dune steers just clear of the cynical.

At its best, Galore opens the lens as wide as it will go, letting artist and listener pass through a multi-colored palette of instrumentation and elevating aesthetic sensibilities. The four track run of "Dancing's Done", "Sound of Screams", "Unkinder (A Tougher Love)", and "Come On Strong" represent the best of Thumpers and the best of this subgenre of rock and pop. The arrangements tumble – "Sounds of Screams" – and relentlessly rise on "Come On Strong" and the irrepressible "Unkinder (A Tougher Love)". The latter, the album's second best song and its most marketable iteration, marches to pounding tom drums and a chorus that soars into the stratosphere. Vocalists Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr. sing the blithe lyric, "You've let us too far into your heart," the knowledge that this type of emotive pop music holds the power to winnow its way into the souls of the listener. The hook modulates and hums between four pitches, hopscotching around and into the short term memories of people who believe their tiniest struggle is real, beautiful and important.

The slices between this type of moral victory pop and its overly emotive cousin are thin. And when Galore goes bad, it does so in the same remarkably bold fashion. "The Wilder Wise" heads for the top of the room, a plinking piano and big drums as its architecture, only to find a loud and bland chorus that only gets bigger and more unmoving as it unfolds. Subsequent track "Roller" confirms that Thumpers may well have spent their best hooks and ideas in the album's first half. Though the final song, the aptly titled "Together Now" reminds the listener of the soaring and successful moments in Galore's opening five songs, the proverbial bloom is off the proverbial rose, an especially dangerous place for a band doing bloom, at times, so well.

The album's center holds its strongest statement of self and purpose. The twin "Now We Are 16" and "Tame" display both the stupidity and beauty of youth. The former essentializes the debate with a titular lyric like, "Talk to me, girl, like we're 16." The desire to go back, to recapture, to "stay young", even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, is how we begin to get warm; it's how we fight our growing anesthesia. "Tame" represents the biggest and best song on the album: huge, rolling drums set against a dystopian Lion King vocal loop. Never has being unsettled felt so good or sounded so fun. The anxiety of the tweaking loops and the final movement settles the debate to an extent. You can want your youth back, you can sing along to these songs, it's all an attempt to live a bit before we die. "Don't leave our bodies that way," they sing as if the animated instrument of our once and future corpse deserves consecration for its movement and belief alone. A correction of the old Cartesian anthem, the band seems to suggest the circular, "We were because we are." This faith in the lives lived in the days before the darkness closes in grants Thumpers their transformative power and their unlimited naïveté its unique charm.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image