Don’t make no plans.”
So says the PR blurb. Whoa! Given that I had tickets for a King Crimson phenomenon shortly after this date, the news left me somewhat panicky, however a quick glance at the calendar and I was relieved to note that the date had passed and my impending demise, along with that of everyone and everything else, appears to have been postponed, probably only until March next year when things are scheduled to get really bleak, but hey ho, it’s all kinda positive for the time being.
As we do now have some time to muse upon the contents of said new missive from Planet Thumpermonkey, what’s it like then?
Well, rather good as it turns out, the non-ending world scenario leaving us more time in which to enjoy it.
Make Me Young, etc. has been bubbling away in the TM lab for some time now, last full album Sleep Furiously having appeared to shout loudly into the ears of unsuspecting listeners, like a deranged tramp with a PhD, back in 2012, and it took a loooong five years for the Electricity EP to emerge, an edgy affair that certainly whet the appetite for this new release.
I have had the great pleasure of seeing Thumpermonkey live several times, not least a blistering set at this year’s magnificent Eppyfest that dropped more than a few jaws, and Make Me Young, etc. has become one of my most anticipated releases of late.
And it’s here. Initially I found it quite subdued, thoughtful where previous releases were angsty and wilfully obtuse, but it has grown hugely in stature as I have familiarised myself, the band delivering a highly sophisticated and mature album of startling elegance, whereas previously the big button in the studio marked ‘Weird’ would have been enthusiastically pressed.
In simple terms, it’s a beautiful record, built on Michael Woodman’s effortless melodic shifts into and out of his wonderful falsetto, and the controlled power and restraint of the band. The rhythmic shifts are often unexpected but not unsettling and there is an unusual warmth, given the often austere experimental ‘otherness’ of their past work, with cinematic grandeur coming from Rael Jones’ piano. But it’s not all serene, as massive bursts of energy are injected when required.
The album poses the question, if you knew tomorrow was the end of the world, would you be able to let go of all your regrets, and live differently for just one day? The lyrics are inscrutable but fit beautifully with the music in a tour de force performance from Woodman.
From the outset Make Me Young, etc. is eclectic and eccentric, the delicate electric piano and voice opening to Veldt adding twinkling percussion before a massive size 9 is applied heavily to the rear end, booting you into a stratosphere of controlled power. It’s stately yet malevolent, Woodman’s voice rising in intensity to compete with the instruments on equal terms. In stark contrast, the last third is a plaintive hymn.
There’s a funkier edge to Cranefly, courtesy of Sam Warren’s bass, as cyclical motifs interlock in a scene more familiar to long term Thumpermonkey listeners, but startlingly bright and fresh. It’s crammed with restrained energy, Woodman imperious and leading from the front. Rael’s keys cut through the overlaid vocal parts as the piece moves through a number of distinct feels in a fascinating journey of discovery, discord making its presence felt but without the urge to take over.
Piano is a big component here, shining through on Figstorm, supporting Woodman alone through the first half, a melancholic late night yearning at its heart. The second half is much darker but equally beautiful, brooding chords sounding a warning, piano striving to make progress through the storm, mournful guitar bringing in calm at the finish. Instrumental vignette Buttersun continues the theme of piano and guitar in a different vein, brighter and warmer, whilst retaining the brooding periphery, and here we are at the artwork inspiring Deckchair for Your Ghost, impending annihilation on a sunny day as grand entertainment for an individual cursed with the knowledge of the impending extinction event. Angular guitars solo as piano keeps everything grounded amid pounding bass and drums. It’s heady stuff, Rael’s piano the key to making it such a resounding success.
The centrepiece title track is grand scale majestic widescreen and a treat to the ears; Woodman angelic, Jones at his classical best, Warren’s bass moving in the spaces around Ben Wren’s massive drums. A lyrical piano and choir section hides quirky rhythms and off kilter guitar, ready to entrap the unwary. It is all just so seamlessly realised, an exhilarating listen that rewards your attention as the pace picks up to a quite stunning crescendo. At over 11 minutes it gives the band space to move; the pacing is fantastic and the resolutions sublime. Intelligent rock music for the discerning listener, and not difficult for the sake of it. Again, the piano is the key to the shape-shifting movement, holding it all together through the ebb and flow. Lolloping rhythms drive us forward to a second climax, more intense than the first – you can feel the wind in your hair through the headlong rush.
Finally, Tempe Terra, the gorgeous comedown after the high energy ripples of the previous two pieces. Thoughtful and delivered with precision, it’s a fantastically cleansing way to finish, undulating bubbles of positivity with powerful bursts of glowering gloom, ending with an undeniable full stop.
This is a magnificent release, a grower which takes their previous work as a foundation, expanding it in all directions with mesmerising results. Thumpermonkey continue to prove themselves to be one of the most fascinating bands in the country.
01. Veldt (5:23)
02. Cranefly (4:35)
03. Figstorm (5:08)
04. Buttersun (1:17)
05. Deckchair For Your Ghost (5:41)
06. Make Me Young, etc. (10:46)
07. Tempe Terra (5:19)
Total Time – 38:09
Michael Woodman – Vocals, Guitar
Rael Jones – Keyboards, Guitar
Sam Warren – Bass
Ben Wren – Drums
Record Label: Rockosmos
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 26th October 2018