The Tom Fun Orchestra – [Album]

Friday, 21 December 2012

About four years ago – when Tom Fun Orchestra released You Will Land With A Thud on the world – they took everyone by complete surprise. Sounding like the score to a Newfoundland kitchen party that Tom Waits crashed, TFO shocked and awed listeners because, as odd as they were, they were also an epic rock band, the likes of which the world had never heard before. Now, four years later, Tom Fun Orchestra has returned with Earthworm Heart and, really, it's hard to get as excited now as it was then; this album is respectable, but still feels very much like a diminished return, if only because its predecessor was so damned good.

As respectable as Earthworm Heart turns out to be, that doesn't mean a few listeners won't feel a bit cheated when “Merry Christmas Jim” winds up and stalls to open the record. There, listeners will feel a bit confused as a perfectly rock solid (a Springsteen comparison would probably suit) and rock-ready rock song introduces itself in an almost cordial manner; bearing none of the mania which excited so many people about You Will Land With A Thud.

An eerie sense of trepidation will begin to set in as the opening song shows itself out; it just doesn't seem right.

With those fans that Thud won for the band getting justifiably nervous, “Rowing Away” shoots out a few shocks as a very tasteful horn arrangement frames the guitars, bass and drums which drive the song and an uncharacteristically subdued Ian McDougall ventures incredibly close  to crooning his vocal performance (think more Tom Jones than the Tom Waits comparisons McDougall drew previously) in a stark but only passably melodic manner. Even those most understanding listeners along for the ride will be getting nervous by the end of track two but, blessedly, “I Am Bleeding Hallelujah” redeems the proceedings as the band shifts up a gear and really gets the sound cooking hot; it might not be ideal, but it is much improved and gives hope for the record.

After “I Am Bleeding Hallelujah” finally get the band warmed up, great but occasional crackles of chaos make their way into songs like “Dear Eleanor,” “Animal Mask,” “Winter/Spring” and “Ulysses” as the band barks up just the right tree to chase a bit of rabid energy out but, overall, the album tends to lilt and sway more than spin and bounce. Under normal circumstances, that would likely be enough to energize listeners but, in this case, the record ends up in a “just okay” place because it had such an awesome predecessor to live up to. Making such an assertion isn't said to be critical, it's just fact; Earthworm Heart isn't pitifully bad, but it does not have anywhere near the same energy level that You Will Land With A Thud did. If anything ever embodied up the meaning of the term “sophomore slump,” it's that.



Tom Fun Orchestra – Earthworm Heart – “Boxcar Lullaby" – [mp3]


Earthworm Heart
is out now as a Canadian import. Buy it here on Amazon .

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