Thornhill Review


Reviewed by: A.J. LoCicero

From Mon Aug 23 16:13:14 1999
Subject: A.J.'s Thornhill Impressions
From: "A.J. LoCicero" 
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999 20:13:14 GMT

Ok, I've listened to the CD a few times now (in the car.  A headphone listening is
needed and yet to come.  I've also read a lot of what various people have said
already about the new album.  Warning: what follows is highly subjective.    

General impressions:

Hmmm.  I have to agree with whoever said the album was like wood.  I am reacting to
it much like I did to wood.  It is taking me time to appreciate it.  (It took me
months to actually learn to love wood.)  My experience with wood is actually very
helpful to me in terms of understanding this album, because with wood I learned that
there is no "direction that Fruvous is moving"  There is just stuff that they do, and
then other stuff that they do, and doing one kind of stuff does not preclude them
doing other types of stuff in the future.  

Having said that I will admit that neither wood nor Thornhill are my favorite fruvous
albums.  Frankly Bargainville is STILL my favorite fruvous album. I'm don't think
musical maturity is the highest form of art.  I can't exactly tell you what it is
that I'm into--it is some kind of weird energy thing or something--but frankly for
me, Bargainville is still their best showcase because it has so much inside it.

Thornhill is certainly a concept album.  Wood was too.  Both albums had a theme.  
(Frankly, I don't think I am particularly enamored of concept albums--fruvous's or
any others--Sgt. Pepper would be my LEAST favorite Beatles album).  This is
particularly true of Fruvous.  I think one of my favorite things about them is their
eclecticism, and while Thornhill certainly represents eclecticism on the album level,
really like it better on the track level (a la Bargainville and YWGTTM).  I am sure
this is blasphemy to some people, but frankly I've always thought that good as wood
is, it is missing some variation in mood that it needs.  I feel like Johnny Sausep'n
is some kind of lost wood track that really should be there to complete the balance. 
For me that would not destroy the mood, it would add another dimension.  

Why is he talking so much about wood you may wonder?  I'm wondering too.  I guess it
is kind of a disclaimer so that you have some idea where I'm coming from.  

OK, now Thornhill: (really)

I like the album.  I like some of it a lot. I have a feeling I'm going to like it
even more with more listens because there are A LOT of complex layers in there.  The
fact that it is a more straight ahead pop style than they've done before (and not
entirely--it is STILL fruvous pop) doesn't bother me at all.  I'm confident that
subsequent albums will go in other directions. (Personally if they want to do another
concept album, I'd love to hear ALL a capella, maybe with a jazz bent!).  Thornhill
IS less eclectic than I would like, and I think a bit too wedded to the Beatleseque
sound.  I feel like even songs that previously did not sound like the Beatles to me,
now sound like the Beatles.  There's that concept again.  Ah well.  Lets go song by

Half as Much

I liked this song from the first or second time I ever heard it.  I really like the
way that it is presented here with the guitar distortion sounds in the background and
all.  I think the tempo is a bit slow on the album, but that is something that
happens in a lot of studio recording.  The musicians don't feel like they have to go
go go as they do on stage, but sometimes they drop under optimal tempo.  I think that
happened in this case.  (as it did with It's Too Cold on wood.  The album version of
that drives Lis and I crazy now that we are used to the way they play it live.)  (Of
course most of you have never heard it live, but that is another issue.)  :)    

IMHO Half as Much should have been the first single.  There are too many stations
that are NEVER gonna play IWHO, and the stations that will would not play most of the
other stuff that fruvous does.  Plus anyone who buys this or any frualbum for IWHO
be disappointed because that is not what most of their stuff is like.  I guess what
I'm saying here is that if we are looking for the Fruvous "One Week" I think it would
be Half far more than IWHO.

Sad Girl
Wow does this sound like a Beatles song now or what?  I've always been kind of
neutral on this song.  By neutral I guess I mean that I like it, but it isn't one
that I think about very much.  It is just a nice Fruvous song without any special
meaning for me.  As I listen to the studio version of it though I'm struck by how
good it sounds.  I think they've created a wonderful total sound package for it.  

You Can't Be Too Careful
I LOVE this song.  Always have.  It is so clever in its double-entendre.  And I can
truly relate to the message. (ahem).  As for the album version.  This song DIDN'T
sound beatlesque to me before, (Maybe Monkeesque but that is a different story), but
but now it totally does.  I'm not sure how I feel about that but it does sound
awfully good.  My only criticism: same as in Half as Much--Too slow.  It yearns to go
faster.  I think this song would also be an excellent choice for a single.

I Will Hold On
I've said this before:  I miss the old backing vocals.  In fact I put them in in my
head while I'm listening.  However, I think the message of the song is much clearer
without them.  I guess I just can't decide which is ultimately better.  I wonder if
the band had similar angst in deciding to cut them.  I guess I approve of the way
they've done the song here, but I think I'd like to hear the full backing maybe in a
year or two as a live variant.  (Yeah, dream on A.J.).  As I said before I think it
is a horrible mistake to make this the first single.  It it too soft for a lot of
stations, and I think it it just too damn straight (not sexually but in terms of
quirkiness) to truly represent Fruvous.  I think it is probably impossible for a
single song to ever represent a band like Fruvous.  Canadian fans from '93 wanted to
have KOS represent the band, and that was totally unsuccessful too, but I just think
that if you are even going to TRY and introduce someone to Fruvous with only one song
it needs to be a song like 1/2, YCBTC, or Splatter Splatter that captures at least a
little bit of the clever side.  (Ok,Ok, "breath if that won't make you blue" Granted,
but it is only in the lyrics.  It needs to be in the MUSIC as well.  I can't really
explain.  I hope some of you have some idea what I'm trying to say.  

I totally fell in love with this song in Windsor.  The banjo version that is.  On
Thornhill, again it has been beatleized.  I wasn't sure if I liked the result the
first time I played the disc, but now I am.  This version is different from the
Windsor version, but it is also fabulous.  I hope the banjo version survives in the
live shows though because it was great in its own right.  (N.B. Just read the Kate's
review of the radio show.  I guess it has!!!)  :)  This song just WORKS for me on
sooooo many levels!

BTW, as I'm writing this I'm playing Thornhill on the computer CD player.  This is
the first time I've heard it out of car.  WOW.  A lot more of the layers are jumping
out at me.  I just love the intricacy of it.  

When She Talks
I understand Michaela called this song Beach Boysesque.  As a teenage Beach Boys
fanatic I can confirm this.  It sounds to me a lot like the later Beach Boys which
were more musically and thematically complex than their early work, but which had
IMHO lost the vital spark that made the early stuff so compelling.  (Sounds like a
slam doesn't it?)  Well yes and no.  I think it is a pretty good sounding song, and
the recording is very nice.  The band obviously has a fondness for this song, and so
do a sizable minority of Fruheads.  I think maybe i just don't fully "get it."  I
have stated before that WST is not (by a long shot) my favorite Thornhill song.  Ok
I'll even say it is my least favorite Thornhill song.  (Like others I've even skipped
it on occasion).  For me it just lacks something.  Some spark, something.  That being
said it still can rise to a wonderful level.  While I find the version on Thornhill
"Ok but not trancendant" the version they did the other night at Milestones was. 
When they started into the song I intended to provide only polite applause when they
finished, but at the end I found myself spontaneously clapping and cheering.  Go
figure.  I guess I don't know what I think.      
Splatter Splatter
Ok, this is the REAL song that I think should be the single.  Radio Friendly for
almost ANY station.  This is my favorite song on the album. I loved it from the first
time I heard an MP3 of it.  (MP3s are a good thing!  I'd never heard it in concert
until fairly recently.)  I hope they do this one on Conan. 

Independence Day
Dark, brooding, discordant... Murray!  I don't necessarily "like" this song (does one
"like" discord?), but it is a great song nevertheless.  ~\o Genivieve I do believe I
can't go on this way ~\o I often can't get that line out of my head.  Wonderful.

I have a tape with an early performance of this.  It wasn't too impressive, but I
know better than to judge by that.  (Anyone ever heard the truly awful embryonic
version of Fly they did on the radio in (I think) Columbus?)  Once I get past the
fact that the beginning of this song sounds way too much like "Lucy in the Sky with
Diamonds" (and even more like the Rutles parody thereof "Cheese and Onions") this is
really an amazing groove of a song.  Like Mary Lane, it is ok on the album but
doesn't really reach its potential.  Live at Milestones it was effing incredible.

Hate Letter
This kind of music is not my cup of tea stylistically, but listening to it, it is
very very cool.  It is going to take a bunch of listens through headphones for me to
get even a partial sense of the totality of it.  

If Only You Knew
I agree that this song is perfect.  I know some people think they could have done
more with it, but I'm glad they didn't.  The song is still essentially the same as
the first times that Mike sang it.  It doesn't need anything.  Poifect just the way
it is.  And for the record, I love the fiddle in G line too!  I don't know exactly
what it is, but this song just pushes ALL the right buttons for me.

My Poor Generation
This is another great song.  Clever, sad, true. My first thought on hearing the album
version:  What's with the funky percussion?  I mean it doesn't ruin the song, but I
don't think it really is needed either.  The song is powerful enough on its own.  

Bonus Track
I think there really really should have been one.  This album is awfully short by
current standards as it is, and I think anything this conceptual and heavy needs
something to "take the piss" (as the English say) at the end.  If they wanted to save
Pisco, I can understand that, but still I think something is needed here to do what
Organ Grinder does on wood.  The ancient greeks understood this need which is why
they structured their theatre in cycles with a satyr play to break up the weight of
the tragedies.  The same considerations hold true here IMO.  On the other hand, I
know the band is familiar with these concepts, and I know that they thought long and
hard about everything to do with this album, so obviously they didn't think a bonus
track was needed or desirable and well, it is THEIR album.  

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