Thornley – [Album]

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Five years. It has been five years since Ian Thornley crawled out of the crash site left by Big Wreck to begin his solo career. His debut solo outing, Come Again, proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the guitarist could at least summon the raw and bludgeoning power housed in the best moments of his former band's catalog – if not the delicacy of it. The gamble that Come Again represented did pay off – the title track and “So Far, So Good” still get regular play on radio – but it was only a modest return and, for reasons that have never been made clear, the proverbial line went dead shortly thereafter; outside of the odd abbreviated tour or one-off performance, Thornley basically removed himself from all active artistic capacities and chose to rest on laurels.

Unfortunately, the five-year lapse between releases did nothing for the singer's craft. As was the case with the stream of solo releases that ran forth at the collapse of the Alternative Nation (including those by James Iha, Scott Weiland, Billy Corgan and Chris Cornell – the most recent release to which Tiny Pictures bears the most resemblance), Ian Thornley's new album illustrates that the singer needs a backing band (all parts – other than drums – were played by the singer here) to operate as a sounding board and reign in his indulgence.

Listeners who remember any of Thornley's previous work will be surprised and taken aback from the moment “Underneath The Radar” stutters to life. With a radically over-processed guitar figure denigrated to nothing more than a series of static blips, the singer woe-is-me-s himself through abysmal verses to the obligatory, “epic” choruses which invariably come out flaccid and by the  time the choir of little girls rushes in to prop him up with a “We need a holiday” refrain, the die is cast and listeners are invited to strap themselves in for a bumpy and unsure ride.

After opening with that whimper, Ian Thornley back-pedals into a series of safe-play, second-hand Nickelback-isms that don't exactly merit criticism for ability (there are stray sparks of the wild riff rock power that characterized both the best work by Big Wreck as well as the best songs on Thornley's first solo record) but will raise eyebrows first for their rather mawkish tenor (the singer has to know that he's only aping both his own shtick and that of Chad Kroeger at best), for the meandering direction of the record second (the songs are unmistakably from Thornley's catalog but it's as if he forgot what made the sound work before) and finally because of the singer's new-found sulky vocal droop. Songs including the bloated “Man Overboard,” the Big Wreck-ed rewrite “Your Song,” the shattered nerves that dominate the vocals in “Make Believe” and downright pouty “Might Be The End” (which reneges on the promise it implies incidentally – it's only track eight on this thirteen-track bore, and he welches again when he mopes , “I'm gonna drown myself with doubles and sorrow” in “Conscience & Consequence”) all make for a generally poor and laborious undertaking at best.

Not all is lost though – the consistent bright spots that appear in Tiny Pictures are those where Thornley  stops posturing for a minute and picks up an acoustic guitar to drop the volume and emphasize the songwriting chops. While the singer is still not being particularly groundbreaking in “Changes,” “This Is Where My Heart Is” and “All Fall Down” (they could have been Tea Party throwaways realistically), those more scaled back numbers do bear a promise that the rest of the overblown caricatures dominating the record do not: Thornley is indeed capable of maturation.

That said, what happens next is entirely dependent upon how patient what's left of Ian Thornley's fan base is willing to be; there is the promise here is the promise here that while Thornley is down, reparations are possible. If the singer is able to follow Tiny Pictures in a timey manner with something representative of his age as well as illustrative of his oft-neglected ability, he might have a shot at a sustainable career. All fans can do now is wait, pray and hope that Ian Thornley smartens up and acts his age.

Thornley official web site

Thornley on Myspace
Official Thornley fan site

Tiny Pictures is available now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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