Tom Williams & The Boat – Teenage Blood (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
TOM Williams says that the 10 songs that comprise sophomore album Teenage Blood reflect a new focus for the band.
After becoming obsessed with the idols of pop-rock’s history, such as Tom Petty, Teenage Fanclub, The Band and Loaded-era Velvet Underground, Tom decided to write songs that take the traditional song structures of that genre – repeated choruses, catchy hooks – and fill them with a subversive lyricism, touched upon in the debut release.
Hence, his songs do have a classic rock structure, albeit one that’s drenched in melancholy lyricism a lot of the time.
Sometimes this drags proceedings down and Teenage Blood is arguably at its best when keeping the tempo robust, as on rousing album opener and title track, which speaks of rain dripping outside the window sill and ‘dad’s crying cos the baby’s ill’ while hitting listeners with meaty hooks and riffs and a pounding back-beat.
Or Too Young, with its spritely rock riff-making and toe-tapping melodies, which gives a more radio friendly edge to the harsher lyrics (which finds Tom suggesting that we’re all too young to really know what’s going on).
In contrast, a slower burning, more brooding effort such as Trouble With The Truth contains more stark honesty yet finds Tom’s vocals less affecting and perhaps more droning, despite the best efforts of the moody piano, drums and guitars that accompany it.
Throughout, though, Tom’s vocals contain a gruff, no-nonsense, even tell it like it is style about them that sits comfortably with the similarly honest lyrics, if not always the instrumentals.
On My Bones he gets away with it, declaring that “I love you from the marrow of my bones” on another tale of lost love that’s delivered with more robust instrumentation and plenty of energy.
But he doesn’t fare so well on the stripped back There’s A Stranger, which opens with the lyric “when you and me are apart girl, it makes me feel sick” and proceeds to tell a somewhat dreary tale of the realisation of another doomed love. It’s unflinching in its honesty and is to be admired on that basis (Tom describes it as the best song he’s written) but it kind of drags you down with it.
Overall, then, Teenage Blood is a mixed bag of a release that may leave opinion divided. Williams and co have plenty going for them when they get it right and their old-school, traditional rock outlook is to be applauded.
But sometimes you can be too honest and too gloomy and that inhibits the overall enjoyment of Teenage Blood. It‘s good in places but lacks that killer grip to keep drawing you back.
Download picks: Teenage Blood, My Bones, Emily, Too Young, Like You