Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A guitar case full of unfinished ideas

album review

Come to the Edge — Tumbler

Come to the Edge”, the sophomore release by the family acoustic folk/rock group Tumbler , is a highly likable effort of strong vocals, endearing melodies and versatile tunefulness. The songs are a general delight in their stylistic diversity; from the excited declarations “Falling” through the Music Hall whimsy of “Nothing to Hold You” and the concluding , marching anthem of “Freedom Cry” , the songwriting , mostly done by Harry Grace and Richard Grace, the album flows remarkably well through it’s eclectic offerings.

Sturdy acoustic guitar, poignant fills and solos of electric guitar and a back beat that is consistently propulsive and never overwhelming the musical sentiment, Tumbler are a sharp troupe with the sense and sensibility of good craftsman. They switch it up, the perform with passion, the vocals soar over the rustling din of guitars and percussion; this is the music of a band that has an awful lot to say.
It’s ironic that this troupe’s demonstrable knack for hooks, beautifully soaring vocals and getting a listener up from their chair meets up with lyrics that a conceptual muddle through out. It is clear from reading the lyrics along with repeated listens that the both Harry and Richard Grace want to embrace contradictions, small details, philosophical generalizations, heartache , joy and other such things in the course of their lyrics.

While the expansiveness of their words indicate an understandable desire to speak about more than the inane concerns of usual pop song lyrics, the themes of the songs have no unifying center. There too often lacks an establishing terrain or situation that provides a framework for the smaller turns and twists Tumbler wishes to present. "Falling”, a great, up tempo assertion of wonderment that effectively hooks you into irresistable grooves, guided by a lead vocal that cuts through the barrage and declares the words with tuneful passion, is undercut in mood when the lyrics get expected:
Oh my God say it again
I don’t know what you just said
Not sure what it meant but
Oh my God say it again
In this moment
All else falls away
And as the planet turns
Does the planet change?
Forever was only yesterday
And we can still return
To when the world’s first pterodactyl
Was terrified
Of falling from the sky
Long before the clouds were stained
By transatlantic aeroplanes
I guess the ground
Was the last thing on his mind
The  exclamation of "Oh My  God" sets you for epiphanies galore, the moment when all that was meant to be known for all the seeking men and women do for a philosophy of life that keeps the likes of us all truding onward lies in the things  of the daily life around us; one expects for insights and revelations to flash like a string of Christmas lights, moments of clarity lifting heart, soul and voice to wonders once hidden now made clear. But wile the music and the earnest vocals ascend, soar and succeed in establishing mood, the lyrics are word salad. Nothing really connects , items and images are  undifferentiated.

 We are meant to experience and appreciate the experience of falling , free of constraints, no  safety nets, to take chances in a moment of life when one finally moves      out of their parent's shadow (and house) and seek their own autonomy. No pun intended,  but the images rob this subject of what gravity it might have had due to silly imagery. More than likely the author can explain this puzzling assemblage and make the associative leaps clear, but that would provide intellectual comprehension, not reinforcement of the mood the music has created . Instead we feel that we’ve walked into a room where someone is talking to themselves, staring out the window, speaking to the remaining leaves on the limbs of trees giving themselves over to an oncoming winter. One gets what the song is getting at in theme without feeling convinced. At this point one puts down the lyric sheed and sways to Tumbler's truly wondrous music.The disconnect is jarring, shoe gazing introversion layered over a music that sounds intended to connect and inspire. Some consideration for the lyrics could have made this music sharper , wittier, more connected. I have to admit that I didn’t understand what these fine musicians were talking about, a condition created by the songwriter’s not being sure how to best express themselves. What needs to be done is better editing of the lyrics; talk about something rather than try to talk about everything.