Published on 28th July 2019
Thank You Scientist – Terraformer
Oops… they did it again! Yep Thank You Scientist return with another collection of sure fire dance floor fillers aimed at the supple and multi-jointed. ‘Strictly’ not for the feint-hearted, but rather music designed for those who wish to gyrate in an unsyncopated fashion. Well perhaps not, as although TYS write some ear friendly toons, the heady pace and odd metering would certainly challenge the most ardent Lindy Hopper. Although I could be proved wrong as I did once witness, and presumably they were all good people, attempting to boogie at a Yes tribute concert. Enough already…
Stepping back a moment the Thank You Scientist massively impressive Stranger Heads Prevail totally blew me away back in 2016, so much so, and along with stiff competition, ended up as my album of the year – and prompted this comment: “It’s raucous and unforgiving in the main, but boy, do these guys know how to write catchy and imaginative songs. It’s never dull, full of melody and harmony and not averse to pushing the boundaries. Love the intricate and busy arrangements – Stranger Heads Prevail is a breath of fresh air.”
Stranger Heads Prevail took me by the scruff of the neck and said, go on then matey, listen to this with your mug of coffee, headphones on, in the tranquility of the evening. Nope, this was definitely a speakers cranked experience…
With the announcement earlier this year of a follow up album, expectations ran high! So when it arrived, did it live up to expectations? Well, we’ll find out after this short commercial break?
We’ve all heard of Thank You Scientist? Thought not. OK – TYS are a New Jersey based septet, initially formed guitarist Tom Monda and vocalist Salvatore Marrano and from the previous album bassist Cody McCorry and violinist Ben Karas remain. Look, there’s a list of the musicians at the bottom of the page, so suffice to say there are three new guys on Terraformer.
The band have toured with Coheed and Cambria, Periphery, Haken, Protest The Hero and Devin Townsend Project, so an indication here that TYS’s music errs towards the heavier end of the progressive spectrum. But please don’t start to nod your head – with that all knowing I see, I see, mindset. These guys have a whole armoury of instrumentation that sets them aside. On Terraformer trumpeter Joe Gullace and saxophonist Sam Greenfield make up a formidable ‘Big Band’ brass section. Violinst Ben Karas adds a certain Jerry Goodman flavouring here and there to proceedings, and Salvatore Marrano’s rather unique vocal delivery should dispel any preconceptions.
AND… finally before moving on to the album – TYS are an assured band who display a sense of humour, noticably visible in their “weird” videos and by the fact they don’t shy away from criticism, as you can see from the highlighted quote from their website.
“TYS literally sounds like a 5th grade band trying to play a song they’ve never rehearsed with an instrument they’re unfamiliar with.”
— @VViccan on Twitter
Made me chuckle – who is this cockwomble?
Back to the matter in hand… so did it live up to expectations? Truthfully, after the first listen through I just sort of went mmmmm and thought oh dear! Second run through was much more positive and several subsequent listens have revealed a truly stunning album. Always a positive in my book when an album takes that little extra time to digest fully.
Looking back now however, I can’t understand why on earth it took more than 2:32 minutes to click. As at just over two and a half minutes Wrinkle is a captivating instrumental opener, hinting at what’s to follow – we’ve got the intricate arrangements, the brass, catchy themes and to top it all – it’s full of excitement!
And that brash excitement flows headlong into FXMLDR, the band’s first single from Terraformer, and brings singer Salvatore Marrano into the fray. For those unfamiliar to the TYS sound, Salvatore’s vocals may well surprise and even challenge, as his vocal register is normally associated with the non testicular gender, however his delivery is mellifluous, warm and certainly packs punch when required, which is most of the time. FXMLDR is chock full of intricate and incisive phrasings, delivered with gusto and flair and wrapped in sweet, deceptive, pop coating. Hooklines from both the vocals and instrumentation embed in the cerebrum immediately. You have been warned.
So if you liked FXMLDR, then fairly safe to say you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the album – which comes with the added bonus that you can skip the rest of this review.
At well over an hour and a quarter, Terraformer, in old money, would be a double LP and a bold undertaking for a band’s third full release. But I can assure you there’s no filler material here, it’s bustling, fresh and epic.
Has it come across yet that I really like this album?
Now I do have a tendency to skip over the lyrical content, mainly as the vast majority of music I listen to is instrumental. Given the flambouyant, excessive and oft tongue-in-cheek persona of TYS it may imply a lack of lyrical depth, which would be certainly doing Salvatore Marrano and TYS a great disservice. Guitarist Tom Monda comments: “This album probably features some of Sal’s most personal lyrics, juxtaposed with some far reaching and topical stuff that is new for us.”
This is evident across the album – highlighting just one track and the introspective lyrics from the pre-chorus to Everyday Ghosts cementing some of Salvatore’s frustrations, as well as having a shared resonance closer to home 😉
“In my soul
There’s no shame in the choices I’ve made
Tired of breaking your back for
A million assholes
A million assholes
We can’t keep pushing it away
Mindful that this review is bordering on the epic, in length that is, I’ll quickly touch on a few random highlights, from an album full of such things. A little bit of “Chrome” first, and yep Chromology the album’s big instrumental. A mega fusiony inspired “Djent discovers Duke Ellington” pastiche. And if you are curious as to how those 5th Graders have improved, then check out the stellar breaks here! At just over the minute mark Joe Gullace blows a tasty horn in Shatner’s Lament. The venomous Son Of A Serpent, if for no other reason has a blistering solo from the awesome Tom Monda and Swarm which does exactly that, capturing TYS incendiary sound in just over six minutes.
So… are there any negatives? I can safely say that Terraformer is not suitable as background music, for those suffering with a headache, romantic evenings for two and certainly not conducive to writing reviews. It is however an bloody marvellous album – and now this review is finally complete – one I shall go and enjoy, in peace… well maybe not in peace…
01. Wrinkle (2:32)
02. FXMLDR (7:56)
03. Swarm (6:25)
04. Son Of A Serpent (8:06)
05. Birdwatching (3:41)
06. Everyday Ghosts (10:03)
07. Chromology (9:49)
08. Geronimo (6:15)
09. Life Of Vermin (8:11)
10. Shatner’s Lament (1:13)
11. Anchor (9:56)
12. New Moon (2:01)
13. Terraformer (8:07)
Total Time – 82:15
Salvatore Marrano – Vocals
Tom Monda – Guitars, Producer
Ben Karas – Violin
Joe Gullace – Trumpet
Sam Greenfield – Saxophone
Cody McCorry – Bass
Joe Fadem – Drums
Record Label: Evil Ink Records
Catalogue#: 2CD EI304 | 2LP EI304V
Date Of Release: 14 th June 2019