Some things are more quintessentially English than others. Tom Williams tourist attracting home town of Tunbridge Wells is definitely one of them. It's got a John Lewis, has Royal status, is a spa town with its own boutique shopping area known as The Pantiles and is situated after all, in the 'Garden Of England'. Now 'I maybe just spiff balling here' but I imagine that per head of population Tunbridge Wells consumes more strawberries, drinks more Pimm's, owns more Hunter Wellies, buys more Range Rovers and plays more croquet, tennis and lawn green bowling than the average town in England. Whilst Tom Williams may have only been dragged into John Lewis for his school uniform and he is by no means a 'poster child' for the town he still, in his own way, represents some of what are quintessentially English qualities.
Cream teas, cucumber sandwiches and cricket may have come to embody a rather cliched, rose tinted, English Tourist Board version of our green and pleasant land but we are also celebrated for our literary heritage, our sense of humour, our pioneering spirit, our ability for self denigration and intimate analysis, our generosity, compassion and also by many for our cosmopolitan make-up. If you add into that gritty, sometimes unflinching realism, masterful situational and personal observation and a soulful underbelly of heartfelt commitment and sincere intent you come some way close to define Tom Williams & The Boat.
Since they formed in 2007 Tom Williams & The Boat have built a steady following through numerous live dates, deserved critical acclaim, favourable airplay on some of the nations more influential stations and ultimately last years very good debut album, 'Too Slow'. Barely a year on from that LP, Tom and his team are releasing their sophomore album 'Teenage Blood'. Previous comparisons to Radiohead and The White Stripes may have got the band some well-earned attention but do not necessarily reflect, with a great deal of accuracy, the sound, the feel or the potency of Tom Williams & The Boat.
Social commentary seen from an unfamiliar perspective has long since been the playground of the disillusioned anti-establishment on the political fringes. Here, for some of 'Teenage Blood', TW&TB often take a cue from some of their, less subtle, predecessors but manage to impart their message or story without a need to preach or philosophise. Their casual observations on life's grim realities are more Dickens than Chas n' Dave, more articulate than comic. On 'Little Bit In Me' you get reminded of the best bits of Carter USM but are treated to a cracking tune devoid of any triviality making the song all the more effective for it..... "My sister was a referee, reffing Sunday morning leagues. South of Sheffield, in a park, showing yellow cards to rapists and thieves." The title track, 'Teenage Blood', is similarly well worked; the key shift and plot twist work brilliantly to both deliver a very catchy and memorable song but also drive home the uneasy, harrowing tale. Showing that they do reflective and considered just as well as Indie infused Anti-folk TW&TB build with soft swathes into a heady cacophony on the bipolar 'Trouble With The Truth', are happy to go overtly 'pop' when questioning life on 'Necklace (Big Wave), and keep it all mellow on the stripped back minimalism of 'There's A Stranger'. With a touch of sophistication they drift, penultimately, through the sun drenched evening air of 'Summer Drive' before 'Emily', a tale of tainted love, rounds off a sensational, stirring and stimulating ten track set.
With a wry wit akin to The Artic's, an earthy honesty befitting of Gene and a soulful passion and intensity previously attributed to Dexy's, Tom Williams & The Boat, are fast developing into one of Britain's best bands. The whole album is delivered with an energy and enthusiasm that translates into an explosive and electric performance. The vocals have presence and power, the percussion is tight and driven and the violin of Geri Holton a constant game changing revelation. There has always been little doubt that TW&TB are a great act to catch live. (Having witnessed them give an incendiary performance that lit up the weekend as one of the best sets from LOTF 2011 I have born witness to that myself). This second album should hopefully more than cement the opinion that they are also a capable of making blistering, sublime, raucous and relevant records as well. 'Teenage Blood' is a potent mixture whichever way you care to analyse it. Go get yourself transfused.
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