Tom Fuller Band – [Album]

Monday, 22 September 2008

Around 1990, before Nirvana came along and totally reset the mainstream taste so that a song wasn’t cool if it didn’t have one edgy sentiment in it or another, rock radio was a generally sunnier, happier place. The going was lighter as tales of partying (typified by Motley Crue), girls and baked goods (Warrant), overcoming odds on spiritual belief (Bon Jovi), more girls and more partying (Beastie Boys) and vacuous but good-hearted, malicious fun (Slaughter, Van Halen, Quiet Riot, KISS, Aerosmith and Poison among a multitude of others) were the norm and, thanks to the older hands at the game like Paul McCartney and Tom Petty, even love was starting to make a comeback and people still got off on classic rock too. It’s one of those things that the pop recycler remembers but is not popular for rock to admit. Tom Fuller and his band remember though.

From the very beginning of Tom Fuller Band’s sophomore effort, Abstract Man, the group kicks down walls and lets crooked rays of sunshine (both solar and liquid forms) cut the dusty air of rooms left long vacant by pop music and begins exploring to see what hidden treasures they might be able to salvage. After electronic percussion simultaneously updates Beatles-esque pop and paints an eerily vivid and synthetically bright panorama of American park life (“Radio Man”), the group discovers Lennon’s strawberry fields on the interior populated with the residents of Oz (“Lollipop Guild”) and maintained by an otherworldly girl with eyes so bright she’s gotta wear shades (“Sunglass Wardrobe”). Needless to say, in their excavations of AM-ready pop, Tom Fuller and his cohorts willingly allow themselves to be overtaken by the strains and don’t exactly try to filter the extrasensory overload; images and references bleed together and it doesn’t exactly seem like they’re in control of what they’re doing (that would explain the delirium of the title track buttressed by Hendrix-esque interstellar guitars of “Air That I Breathe”) and is willingly letting their chemical muse  be their guide while catering to its whims.

As the record progresses, the band turns its flashlights onto other twisted and discarded scraps of brilliance (“Dragon Fight” sounds like the most polished, breathtaking pop number that T.Rex never wrote while Fuller finds redemption in the things left unsaid “Between The Lines”) in the abandoned pop SRO and makes them their own. Each time, Fuller marvels at his luck as he holds up each track during their opening notes as if to scream ‘Eureka!’ before happily digging through and seeing what new borrowed ideas he can attach to an old form. With the band’s ethereal delivery, he makes his listeners do the same thing because as the stage gets set for each track, no one reasonably expects the same thing to work again – how could it? But it does; for fourteen tracks, the Tom Fuller Band revives the dead ends left by forty years of pop music-making and turns them all to gold. Abstract Man’s existence is proof that one band’s trash can be another band’s treasure if they love it enough.

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