Thistupidream is an album teetering on perfection. Its ten tracks threaten to transform themselves into a musical epic at nearly every turn thanks to the lofty heights from which Be’s influences seem to reside. After all, it’s not every day that you tend to hear a band skillfully and successfully adopt the sound of Genesis during their latter-day Peter Gabriel era, or Pink Floyd right before Roger Waters decided to call it quits. Yes, this is a very daring album, one filled with all sorts of surprises that further the notion that the major labels might do very well by looking towards the independents to see just what it is they’re missing out on.
Be, consisting of the Summerlin brothers (Talley on lead vocals, Mark on guitar and vocals, and Paul on bass and vocals) and Duke Boyne (drums), are another musical wonder shouting forth from the state of Texas. After making a bit of a name for themselves in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Be traveled to Dallas where Thistupidream was recorded. Aside from creating such an enigmatic album, the band has been featured on such diverse pop culture products as the soap opera The Young and the Restless, and Direct TV’s Music Choice Unsigned. Not bad creds at all. But then this band deserves the exposure.
Against a taut rhythm, Thistupidream begins with “On the Last Day I Was Happy”. Talley, who has a bittersweet voice that sounds like it might well up with tears any moment, exclaims, “I remember the bomb, floating, floating / I remember the song we were singing / On the last day I was happy”. Summerlin’s irony is backed by quiet instrumentation on Mark’s acoustic guitar, Paul’s delightful bass lines, and Duke’s brushed drums. It echoes a sort of cross between Roger Waters on The Final Cut and Peter Gabriel on Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound.
That Peter Gabriel feeling also reaches into the stoic “The Corporal’s Daughter” where Talley’s vocals seem to eerily bend into an English accent that sounds just like Gabriel circa his debut album. This time, the band pushes the volume but never loses its subtle textures that paint the elegant, melodious portraits laid out by lines like “I read about her in a book she wrote me / The corporal’s daughter has a way with words / I’d dream about her in a way she taught me / The corporal’s daughter has me dreaming”. Such slightly surreal lyrics help push Be’s envelope and allow the band to stretch creatively without ever nose-diving into the pretentiousness that some over-achieving indie bands often find themselves in.
On the other hand, the rocking “Confession” sounds just like Michael Penn during one of his more inspired albums like March or Free For All. Amidst the raging chords and powerful rhythm, there sits Talley, booming into the eye of the storm: “If I had a best friend / If I could keep only one / It would be you / If I could keep only one / It would be you.” Penn would kill to write a song this damn catchy and sweetly dark. If you didn’t know it was Be, you’d almost swear it was Michael.
“Goodnight Goodnight” reaches back into the Gabriel influence and produces a sound that, again, does it better than its obvious influence. Close your eyes and imagine this song fitting nicely onto an album like So or Us. Amazing. And even though things slip just a little on “Driving to the Beach” (it just feels like Be tried to pack too many ideas into a five minute song and couldn’t focus on just one), the tune is still an interesting listen; a grand example of a flawed design that still sparkles through.
“Raincoat” further pushes the Gabriel influence even further. It’s almost scary. Did Be sit and listen to nothing but Peter’s albums before writing most of this album? The song features a skittering acoustic guitar rhythm and Talley’s wavering voice. Together, the two Summerlin brothers conjure up so much tension that the drama is nearly unbearable. Tightly wound like a bedspring about to burst through a mattress. The haunting beauty that the band exudes here continues along in the title track. It should be noted that Paul Summerlin is an exciting bass player. He tends to pull melodies out of thin air while keeping the overall tone understated. Very impressive.
“The Night You Faked Your Own Death” sports the all-out rocking guitars once again with Paul’s percolating bass work fluctuating against the backbone of the sound. How could anyone not be moved by such an absolutely stunning piece of work that this album is? These songs demand to be listened to and appreciated as intricate constructed works of musical depth and majesty. Be cannot be touched. Thistupidream is a stupefying masterpiece of unbridled musical genius.
Those Peter Gabriel fans should definitely pick this album up. Everyone else who’s a fan of brilliant pop music should find a lot to enjoy here as well. The music on this album is as moody as the muted and foreboding cover photo on the sleeve. Yet underneath is some of the most moving and phenomenal music put down on a disc in quite a while. Take a listen and see. Be should definitely be a band to watch. Thistupidream should be an album in everyone’s collection.