Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Then Thickens 'Colic' (ALBUM REVIEW)

The second album from Then Thickens, the project of former KONG man Jon-Lee Martin, is another spine-chillingly frank collection of songs, shedding some of the excess weight of debut Death Cap at Anglezarke and gaining a slightly more polished veneer. It’s a discernible progression and one which brings the band’s red-raw charm even closer to home, leaving you feeling like you’ve flipped through a recovered addict’s photo album – warts and all, highs and lows.

Martin has escaped a dark, tortured past in which his unhinged KONG stage persona Magpie threatened to beat him into submission, and looking up with a bloody nose and a black eye Colic wears its heart on its blood-soaked sleeve. And opener ‘Heaven Alive’ – every bit as honest as the name suggests – taps straight into that vein, uplifting as it builds itself around one of the most memorable hooks on the album.

‘Smothered In Gold’ is cut from the same cloth, the energy dialled up and a snarl creeping into the guitars but the widescreen frame kept in place. Martin produces emotional vocals without the gravel-throated roar of a world-weary blues singer, and it’s this composed delivery which lowers the defences and winds highly personal lyrics into your soul. But if the vocal chords near their limit anywhere it’s on ‘My Sunday’, a more open and upbeat rocker exploring the same space as ‘Turn Your Words Around’ which nevertheless tells us that on “Friday, the residual pain kicks in”. There is a narcotic theme to the lyrics – based on the narratives of both real and fictional characters – which is picked up again on ‘Amsterdam’, a soft slice of melancholy which crashes into fuzzed-out relief and encapsulates the album, and the band that made it. 

‘Turn Your Pictures Around’ draws on a similar formula, a spiky undertone lending a bit more grit to the closing track. Things fully relax on the trashy roar of the provocative ‘Cum Summer’, but elsewhere dive into elegiac calm; the title track is disarmingly gentle and the piano-driven ‘Tie It To You’ is deep and moody, although neither can resist sticking the boot in somewhere. If anything misses the mark it is the fizzing post-punk of ‘Dirty Letter’, which sticks out like a sore thumb, but there is no doubt in Colic Then Thickens have outdone their already formidable debut album. Honest, open and affecting, this record bares its soul to you and the least you can do is pay attention

Words - Joe Ponting
Colic is released via Hatch Records on October 23rd 2015

Then Thickens official

Live dates...
23rd October - Cardiff / Clwb Ifor Bach
24th October - Bristol / Stag & Hounds
25th October - London / Old Blue Last
29th October - Manchester / Night & Day