Singer/songwriter Wells' fifth album feels like a puzzle with too many pieces missing
If an album with the title On the Volatility of the Mind sounds like an airless slog through one man’s psyche, well, that’s in the ear of the beholder... and may not be entirely wrong. On his fifth album, Australian singer/songwriter Tamas Wells shares 11 obtuse, elliptical snapshots of fractured relationships, ennui and distress. While he clearly believes in the writers’ maxim “show, don’t tell”, On the Volatility, taken on the whole, feels like a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces missing. Sonically, Wells adds electric guitar and synths to his usual arsenal of guitar and piano, and the new instruments adds some lovely color: the shimmering keys of “Never Going to Read Your Mind”; the closing “jam” of “The Treason at Henderson’s Pier”. But the lyrics are so fragmentary, it’s hard to tell what the hell is going on. Inscrutability is one thing, but tunes like “I Don’t Know Why She Burned Up All Those Greylead Drawings”, “Bandages on the Lawn” and “A Servant of the Crown” leave the listener very little to grasp onto, and have a tendency to switch ideas halfway through like a bad, mid-period Simpsons episode. When it all comes together, as on the harrowing health scare “An Appendix”, Wells is an effective artist, but On the Volatility has too few moments of genuine connection.