Thornhill Review


Reviewed by: Donna Hunt

From Sat Aug 14 16:12:33 1999
Subject: Thornhill:  Donna's Offical Review.  :)
From: Donna Hunt 
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 16:12:33 -0400

Greetings, newsgroupers.  So, I spend 11 hrs in my car returning from Boston
(via Rochester, and yes, soon I'll be back to teaching and I won't be wandering
the continent anymore) and come home to find people in my bed and by shower
backed up.  So since my first two choices were obviously out, I sat down and
skimmed through 300 messages.  I find, to my surprise, that the response to
Thornhill is less than ecstatic, and I'm disappointed in you.  :)  So, to help
out poor Chad, who is defending it voraciously, I'll posting my review.

Warnings and Disclaimers:

1.)  This is Long.  Having my silly degrees in both English and Music I'm
obviously going to be way into details and describing them.

2.)  I love this album.  If you don't want to read about someone loving the
album, move on now.

3.)  This *is* one of those "Track by Track" reviews.  Move on if you don't want
to deal.

4.)  I am awfully tired.  I don't promise to be completely coherent.

5.)  I do have a brief, superficial 'super-quickie' sum-up at the end, for all
of you who used those Cliff's Notes in high school and/or college.

6.)  I know a lot about music, but  I'm not a music technician, and I'm probably
going to be making up my own language about certain effects.  Please Deal.  If
you're dying to educate me on the proper lingo, you can email me
(  Thanks.

First off, I'd like to say that I think Chris O'Malley has done a terrific job
at transcribing what's happening on Thornhill onto the lyrics section of FDC.
Wonderful.  I recommend you check it out.  I went there after doing my
dissection, and was joyful and relieved that someone was at least as interested
in the layers and things as I am.  :)

So Thornhill happens to be my favorite album from my favorite band... right
now.  I'm not positive it will stay that way, ask me in a year if I've gone back
to Wood.  However, when Moon came out, Wood was still my favorite album.  [not
that Moon doesn't have some of my favorite songs on it, but as an album, it has
failings in the way it was put together, to my ears.]
But right now, I think it's the best thing they've put out... as an album.  (Are
we still using the word 'album'?  Should I say 'disc'?  Or, 'CD'?)

One of the things I think is so great about this album is that more than any
other Fruvous album to date, I really think it captures some of the magic that
happens when we see them live.  I'm not one of those who says they're not any
good on CD and you have to see them live [although I'm a live show junkie,
myself] but what they do live is usually so different that what was on the
album... i.e., Sahara, Message, It's too Cold, and most recently obviously Video
Bargainville.  :)  This album carries some of the indefinable stuff that makes a
frushow so incredible.

Anyway, I know there was some discussion here about "Concept" albums and such,
especially with the debate about Pisco or Follow the Road (etc.) being on this
one or not.  I'm not sure what a technical definition of 'Concept Album' is, but
I think this might be one.  :)  What I mean by that is:  the sound of the album
is pretty consistent.  It flows really well, it's put together wonderfully.
Yes, it's different than other Fruvous albums.  But they're all different.  This
album feels mature to me.  They had a long time to put this one together, they
had a lot of material to choose from, they had a lot of decisions to make--and I
think it all came together beautifully.  Here we go:

I think this is a great track to put first.  It's upbeat at a nice tempo (not
too fast), and it is consistent with the "sound" of the rest of the album.
I really love the verses with the split lyrics and split voices, Mike with
Murray, Jian and Dave following, I think it's very effective, very successful.
The harmonies are very tight, and in 4-part, which is very Fruvous.
I think the misc. percussion really helps give it the light-hearted feel.
My favorite line:  "I never realized that I would need the joys and secrets of
your eyes."

When Fruvous first started to play this one, I wasn't into it.  I didn't like it
all that much.  However, it fits so well into the album, it follows Half as Much
so well, that now I really, really like it.
This is one of the songs that I can't get over how "Beatlesesque" it is.  I hear
reminiscences of half a dozen Beatles songs, which I won't get into.
I really like the Piano in the beginning.
I like the strings in the background--if they're synthesized, it's an incredibly
good synthesizer!  If they're not, who's playing them?
In the background of the bridge, I start to hear this cool, but un-identifiable
(to me) sound... that's somewhat guitary/keyboardy/chimes-like and distorted.  I
like it.  Don't know what it is, but I like it.
The fade-out is incredibly effective.  With the voices echoing each other, in
harmony, with all the layers, it's excellent.  I'm always impressed with HOW
MUCH sound the four guys can produce with just their voices, weaving in and out
of the other voices--it's incredible.  Another Fruvous reference where that
impresses me is the end of Laika (esp live) with the whole "Hail to the Chief"
My favorite lines:  "Depression is Romantic"--while the words aren't really
anything special, I like the way Jian wraps his mouth around them.
Another lyric that I like is how "Mad world" turns into "Man's World" at the
end.  I've always dug that.

You have to laugh, because if you're trying to be geeky and figure out what the
heck they're babbling about before this song, suddenly you get your ear blown
off with the first line.  :)  I dunno anybody who would do that, though.  ;)
I'm a big fan of harmonica.  This is a great wailin' harmonica song.  [Is it in
Fly, where there's a harmonica "solo" that starts with just one note for a long
This is a vocally-driven song, with Dave settling into the lower part of his
voice very nicely.  He moves his mouth over the words in this song nicely as
More misc. percussion, the light cymbals add a lot.
My favorite lines:  "There's always teachin' English in Tokyo"--that line just
cracks me up, because every time I'm looking for a job, my mother bring that
up.  :)  I also like how Dave goes "Please Don't..." (be too careful) on the

It's nice the way this song starts with just Jian and the guitar.  Dave just
sneaks in with the harmony at "You know that it's true."
I love the tambourine part, throughout.
I think the bass line on this song is the best on the album.  I love it.
Especially underneath "And if that's not what you're used to," but even just the
repeated notes underneath "You know that it's true..."  I think the song would
be sappier w/o the kickass bass line.
Oh, and speaking of bass, there's a bowed String Bass part, just a tiny one,
right at the end.  (Real? I think so, but, Synth?)
I think the drums on the last verse are effective:  where Jian's singing alone
again and then brings everyone in at "I'll hold the hope..."
Jian finishing alone is nice, I wish he was a little bit more in his head voice
for it, a little bit closer to the voice he uses for Downsizing.
The background vocals on the Chorus really make it sound very full and lush.  It
sounds similar to the 'chorus' button on keyboards.  :)
Lyrics:  The line "I'll hold you're breath if that won't make you blue" is very
similar to Fly's "The took off their shoes and bared their souls" with the
word-play, and I'm not a big fan of these two instances of word play.  I think
they're a little flippant, considering the songs they're in.
My favorite line:  "I'll hold off choice til you know what to do" because of all
the things this guy would do, that's the only one I could really use.  :)

Right now, this is my favorite song on the album.  I saw it live 3 (?) times
before they decided to put it away for awhile, and I loved it then, and I'm so
happy to have it here in my house where I can listen to it whenever I want.
There's nothing I don't like in this song.
Dave's voice on this one is so great, he's right in the sweet spot in his
voice.  Fabulous.
I like how Dave sings Punctual.  It's like "Punn-ool"
I think there is more misc. percussion in this song than any other song ever.
:)  Everybody's just pounding on stuff!  It's great!
And of course, those "Jack and Diane" style Hand Claps.
There's a violin part in this song.  Most of it is playing only 3 notes.  Is
this one of the guys?
I'd say that the background vocals make this song, except I could say that about
*everything*.  Specific favorites are the "badoobedowah";  and Everyone trying
to sing down low on "There hasn't been a damn thing on";  then whatever everyone
is saying in the back of "My Get up and Go is all gone"--I love it!  I don't
know what the heck they're saying, but I love it! And of course, while Dave's
singing "Losing my powers" Murray's (Mike's?) got "oh, oh, oh" really low. :)
And Double (String) Bass!  Yes!  [well, I mean, it's not bassoon or anything...
but...]  :)
The background chatter adds a lot to the fun feel of this song.  It sounds kinda
"busky" :) if you ask me.  I mean, it could totally be a song where you could
see these people sitting on steps somewhere, pounding on shit, belting out this
song.  :)

It's a big shock to go from Earthquakes into WST.  It's the rockiest transition
on the disc.
Jian's voice is nice and relaxed, not forced at all--am I the only one who hears
this like, "Jian-bot" voice?  He's doubled over himself or some such.  I really
like it, it's kinda fascinating that way.  Probably because I keep saying "Can't
you hear that?"  :)
I really like the background vocals on "Always in Command" and "Lasting Memory."

This seems a LOT slower than when they do it live.  It's not bad slower, but I'm
hung up on thinking that it's so much slower.
There's nice electric guitar right before "When it's time I know..."
Dave's harmony with Jian is... lovely.

I can't believe anyone can listen to this song and think that Thornhill is way
serious.  Hello?  And how can you not dance to this song?
When I first heard this on the album, with Mike coming in with the funky
megaphonelike thing from Michigan Militia, I just went "ooh" because it's so
neat.  It makes the way Mike pronounces this words even clearer.
Again, I love the split vocals "This is the best movie" with Mike and Murray vs.
Dave and Jian.
The electric guitar sounds great, and the bass line fits nicely--it sounds like
these horroreque movie soundtrack stuff.  :)
Near the end when they do the 7 Again's is great.
Lyrics:  I think everyone likes "She craves attention," and there's really not a
way to use the word "Crave" subtlety.  :) I really like "Suburbs are too
antiseptic," and I love "Rhododendron Park" mostly because of the way Mike says
The only complaint I have about this song is it always makes me want to say
"Cha-cha-cha" at the end.  :)

This is a kinda slow song to be putting after Splatter, but it doesn't bother
me, I think it works still.  Part of that is because the acoustic guitar part is
so incredible, Mike hits one chord and I'm paying 100% attention.
Murray's voice is very... alone.  It sounds like they recorded his voice on the
solo stuff completely separately, in a small practice room all by himself... at
3 am.  :)  It sounds somehow "In front" of the instruments, except when
everyone's singing harmony, and then he blends in completely.  Murray's voice on
this song is right in the middle of it's "heaviness" I think.  What I mean is,
it's not as heavy as it was on Wood, but not as light and in the head as when
I've heard, say, Bittersweet live [or the "Love me, Love me" part in the Billy
Jian Medley  ;)].  All the guys know how to use their voices in different ways,
but I think Murray's has come the farthest recently.
I love the imagery in this song.  I have this desire to totally dissect it like
a silly English major, but I won't.  :)  But with the balloon lines, the trees,
the whole scene of feeling separated during an extremely festive time... and it
storms on Independence Day!  everybody hates that.  :)
The vocals are very strong and full on the Bridge.
I like the way "Genevieve, I do believe" works, but it reminds me (and this is
going to sound more trite than I mean it to) of how convenient it is that they
found a name (Tricia) to rhyme with Militia.
I also like the way they fade out the ends of Murray's "ohs" at the end.
My favorite line:  "I stuck my hand into my coat, felt the letter you wrote."
I'm not sure why I like it so much, but I do.

Downsizing is long.  I'm not complaining, but I don't remember it being this
long when I heard it live once upon a time.
I think a big reason I really like this song and it gets to me it because my own
town is so very working class, incredibly blue-collar; the line "I won't tell my
wife, I will work it out, things will be fine" has been said to me half a dozen
times by friends and family--almost makes me break down.
Musically, I really enjoy the subtle synth going on in the background.
Jian has a lot of "voices."  He can use his voice in so many ways (and like I
said, so can the others... Mike's being the most versatile) and I'm always
impressed when he takes his voice out of the chest and into the head and sings
lightly in that tenor range.  They work a little echo into his voice here too,
which works really well.
I really like the vocals on the chorus, where Jian alone leads in with "It's the
message we" and the others come in on "send" and then the same thing with "Our
relevance" and "pays."  Very nice.
Right before the last verse, there's a high note that I want to say is Mike, but
it might actually be synth, but in either case, the same note is repeated in the
electric guitar at "Understand."
Line:  "Someday they'll lose something worse, and then they'll understand."  I
don't feel that the narrator really believes it, but is just trying to be brave
about it.  Maybe it's me, maybe I just don't believe it.

This is another song that is so fun, I can't believe folks are worried that
Fruvous has lost their sense of humor.
I like how the intro and outro are just drums and bass.  I think the bass line
is perfect for the sound of this song.
There's no better way to describe this song than "smooth."  :)
Dave's voice is very light (for him) on this song, but he's still right in the
heart of his range.
The "sound" of this song is deceiving, considering the context.  It's like "Fell
in Love" in that regard, where they both work beautifully, but they're not about
what they "sound" like they're about.  Ya gotta be payin' attention.  :)  I
mean, I almost fell down walking through the kitchen when I first heard Dave
calmly, lightly sing "I don't love you that much."  [which reminds me of Dan
Bern's "Jerusalem"--but they're not comparable in any other way]  :)
All right, so we're all aware that during this 'breakdown' section (Goin' to
Murray's, Goin' to Mike's) all that silly Dave stuff is going on, but my
favorite part of it are all the little Thornhill quotes floating in and out.
:)  I like how someone laughs in the background of the background--is it Mike?
What's best about this section is even if you're not obsessing about what the
heck they're saying it works beautifully musically.  I mean, if my sister were
to suddenly just pick up Thornhill for some reason and listen to this song, I
don't think she'd even think to try and figure out what Dave was saying.  :)
It's a gift for those obsessed.
I like the "Shoobewops" that float lightly in the background throughout as well.

My favorite line:  "Finally Final."
What else can I say?
Totally Wicked.
Totally Cool.

I like all the misc. percussion again... I like how Jian's (I mean, I assume
it's Jian) plays on the snare rim, I like the tambourine, and the hand claps
during the bridge.
This song sounds so natural, it sounds like it was so easy for Mike to write.
(Maybe it was harder than heck, but he makes is sound so sweet)
I can't figure out if there're two acoustic guitars, or one twelve-string, or if
the guitar just sounds really big to me for some reason.
The bass is very laid-back as well, helping it sound natural with almost an
"Under the Boardwalk" feel.  (well, an 'acoustic' Under the Boardwalk feel)
I don't think that the background "Ahhhs" are necessary.  I don't think they
really take away from the song, but I think Mike would sound just fine all by
himself; I don't know if they felt they needed the "Ahhs" to make is a Fruvous
song, as opposed to a Mike Ford song.
However, the harmony with Mike is nice... is that Jian?
I love every word to this song, I think they all work perfectly with the
melody.  Such a sweet song.
My favorite line:  "Closed my eyes for an hour and a half."

This song is so powerful for me that I have a hard time saying anything about it
except "Wow."  It hit me so hard live that I think I knew all the words by the
third time I heard it.
I like that there almost isn't a Chorus.
And I like that the line before "My Poor Generation" changes throughout, (i.e.,
"Drowned in information" and "Lost in Union Station" etc.)
Cool new drum.  :)
The only thing that worries me is that Dave's 'Whoooo' is almost out of tune, I
worry about it in every live performance.  :)
I like that the guitar solo is low.
This is another song where the lyrics are so strong, I like almost every word.
It's just so powerful.  My favorite lyrics change with every listen, but
"airborne with nothing to land on" and the whole "Corporate raiders got to
greedy in the 80's and bought up all the direction" always stand out for me.
This is a perfect last song.

I don't want to comment to much on this, but it's definitely a part of the
album.  It's another very Beatlesque thing to do, and I think it helps capture
some of what makes fruvous Fruvous.  It gives us a sneak peak at hearing them
working things out together, and for those of us who enjoy the banter at shows
almost as much as the music, it's a great bonus.
I especially love the playing around with "Earthquakes" that we get after "Hate
Letter," and I'm dying to know what Murray doesn't want in the chatter before
"My Poor Generation."  :)

I love this album.
Mike wrote "Pop" songs,
Jian wrote "Love" songs,
Dave wrote "Cool" and "Powerful" songs,
and Murray wrote the best song.

It's a good thing.

The only thing I want to know is, will Mr. Paul Murray ever hear this album?

verbosely yours,

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