For years, TW Walsh was a member of Pedro The Lion alongside his collaborator, David Bazan. With Songs of Pain and Leisure (2011) and now this, his latest upcoming record, Walsh proves to be a singer/songwriter of equally talented proportions who for reasons unknown, seemed to take a back seat to Bazan.
Fruitless Research covers lots of musical territory. It’s a modern record with nostalgic undertones. While there are some retro/futuristic songs that are plain but pleasant enough (‘Chocolate Milk’ and ‘Counting Cars” harcken back to ’80s predictability), you can’t dismiss the unusual approach taken to mixing on even these middle-of-the-road tunes. Those songs can be forgiven as the rest of the record typically remains in the “wow” region with regard to music, vocals, mixing and blending of genres.
Opening track ‘Public Radio” is an atmospheric piece that sets the tone with a Sunday morning fever dream-style feel with robotic vocals that are difficult to decipher. No matter. It seems as if the vocals are meant to be a smaller aesthetic piece of a larger whole whose lyrics are meant to serve a peripheral purpose.’Shallow Water’ brings out delicate confessional vocals in the vein of Sparklehorse frontman Mark Linkouse. It’s as if the ghost of the late singer has been put down on tape to broad rushes of synth and we are the better for it.
Walsh turned 40 during the recording of this record. He is old enough to remember mainstream rock played on AM radio. The musical influences of the ’60s through the ’80s come through here on a number of tracks. ‘Young Rebels’ has an energetic garage rock sound with a drumbeat that recalls all of the best girl groups of the mid-sixties. Accompanying synth sounds with modern vocals bring to mind a current television commercial for cars. ‘Fundamental Ground’ filters The Beatles by way of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices with it’s bright, poppy lo-fi flavor. ‘Monterrey’ brings an unexpected upbeat, yet sad recollection of Neil Young. Its far off sounding minor vocals bring forth memories of many kids staying up to listen to AM radio quietly under the covers, well past their bedtime. The record exits with ‘The Glow,’ a Cure-sounding tune with Pet Shop Boys vocal similarities. The vocals are “hooky” without leading up to an actual hook, exiting suddenly leaving the listener wanting expansion, yet still feeling satisfied.
Walsh’s is ready for a “serious comeback in his solo career.” This record sets the stage to do just that while attracting 20 and 30 somethings as well as older listeners, all of which will likely find something appealing in this modern, yet familiar sounding record.
Top Tracks: Young Rebels, Fundamental Ground