20 March 2006 (released)
21 March 2006
Will Georgantas, the man behind Thunderegg, has undertaken over the last 10 years what can only be described as an inspired and single-minded artistic journey. Open Book, a marathon compilation that documents his artistic travels through the vehicle of 213 songs (just short of nine hours worth of music), is at its best a captivating and often deeply moving listen.
The first two albums (Universal Nut and the slightly more edgy New England Music) are beautiful, delicate compilations, serving in part as an obituary for Georgantas' previous band. Rough, raw, mostly acoustic and often out of tune, Thunderegg's lo-fi, lullaby ethic is at once enraging and endearing. The songs are fragile, bruised, battered (â€˜New England Music', â€˜Birthday Envelope' and â€˜Hold Myself Up'), funny, self-conscious (â€˜I wish I Had A Stove'), hilariously observant (â€˜Other People's Coffee') and not in the least ephemeral (â€˜Ephemeral').
Personnel Envelo-file marks a distinct development. Without doubt the album still sits firmly in the lo-fi camp, but the noticeably cleaner production and spiky arrangement of opening track â€˜Cop On A Horse' is an immediate jolt to the system and sets something of a precedent maintained by the irritating They Might Be Giants-esque catchiness of â€˜How The Mail Works', â€˜Windmill' and â€˜Old Girlfriendses'. This aside the album is permeated by quality songwriting and a sustained warmth that suggests there is still a person behind the drum machine and fuzz bass, and irrespective of any criticism, it's worth an hour of your time just for â€˜Double Reverse' and â€˜Wilson Calls It Quits'.
1997's Thunderegg preserves the peak and trough variety of Personnel Envelo-file, but perhaps with a lighter touch on the metaphorical musical steering wheel. Amongst the intermittent trademark quirk and peculiarity there is a reversion to the perfect pop sensibility and whimsy that dominated Universal Nut with â€˜Christina Stopped Playing Her Violin', â€˜Of Such Is The Kingdom of Heaven' and â€˜You Forget You Get Wet' making sense of the record's weaker moments.
Powder To The People and In Yanistin, are mostly instrumental and a touch patchy, the former finding its author lacking direction and perhaps struggling for words (some of the music not-so-mysteriously turns up in song form on later recordings). A brave departure into lo-fi surf rock, â€œa transition in subjectâ€ to quote Georgantas, or a few too many nice ideas left undeveloped, I'm not sure, but Powder To The People is certainly a low point as far as this otherwise mighty collection is concerned. In Yanistin is altogether more cohesive, its forlorn semi-acoustic instrumentals brimming with the same sensitivity that Georgantas commands through song â€“ hear â€˜I Will Never Suffer Again', â€˜The Western Sieve' and â€˜The Envelope Pushes Back Demo' for the evidence. But for all the sensitivity, there is nothing more isolating than the cavernous reverb that concludes the prophetically entitled â€˜Aim At The Night' or the empty hopelessness of the cyclical title track (one of only a handful of fully-formed songs included here). Deeply personal, often difficult to connect with, yet exceptionally moving and rewarding given time, In Yanistin documents perfectly an artist grappling with self-doubt.
2000's The Envelope Pushes Back and 2004's Sweetest One between them pull together the strings of history into one rather fantastic ball of resplendent twine. The essence of Envelopeâ€¦ is summed up in the glorious â€˜If I Went On A Diet' â€“ a love song to end all love songs with the bass line to end all bass lines. Sweetest One is by comparison an exercise in simplicity â€“ drumless, melodic and void of the very personal expression of suffering I'd rather got used to after 7 hours. The euphoric â€˜Long Way From Home' paints a beautiful picture of how the memory of what has passed can replace the emptiness of even our darkest, most lonely moments, a sentiment affirmed by the honest yet hopeful â€˜Plaza Song'.
So having dragged my sleeping bag, flask of tea and a week's supply of chocolate digestives to the computer in order to report back to you folks on nine hours-worth of music, I guess the questions are â€˜was it worth it?' and â€˜have I done it justice?'
I don't think I could have even started to do this record justice. The sheer width and breadth of it can't be summed up in a couple of hundred words. What I hope I have done is give you enough information in this whistle-stop tour to at least persuade you to give Thunderegg a chance and that, although there is probably music within this monster of a collection that will pass you by, this fact is easily outweighed by Will Georgantas' knack for inspired, empathetic song writing. Be selective, bung 80% of this on your MP3 player and you'll have music for every occasion on tap for at least the next year.
Open Book is available from http://www.thunderegg.org/