Slatter, Tom - Demon,
So here I am trying to work out what to say, and there is that album cover looking straight into me, as if Tom is saying “just get on with it for heaven’s sake”. The thing is, this is bloody hard. Somehow, I have to put into words just what I think of an album I have just played on headphones all the way through four times on repeat. When I reviewed his last album (excluding the ‘Murder and Parliament’ project) ‘Happy People’, I did mention he had elements of both Geoff Mann and John Dexter Jones (Jump) and also came across very English (with apologies to JDJ). That is still very true, but here he is taking his songwriting and songs into whole new areas. He has also made this a family affair by having his sister, Rebecca Haynes, play bassoon while his brother in law Joel makes a spoken word appearance and his mum arranged the choir who appear on one number.
Anyone who knows Tom, follows him on FB, or has been to any of his performances, will know that he is an incredibly humorous and funny guy. However, that is only one small part of his persona, and here he provides incredibly mature and powerful stories which are packed full of emotion. This is not a “normal” album in any sense, in that he approaches arrangements in a way quite different to most, yet somehow makes the most progressive (in its truest sense) and complex music sound incredibly approachable. I think I could listen to “West Wind” pretty much all day and not get tired of it, as when he lifts his vocals to hit the higher notes for the words “One Minute Longer” it is then that one gets the incredible power he has to hand. I love his vocal style, as it is full of emotion and angst, broad, rich and multi-faceted as opposed to tinny and singular like some. I can imagine that some may not like it as it is not quite what they are used to, but that is their loss.
This is a songs-based album, an album of stories, which really needs to be played on headphones and multiple times to get the full benefit. Musically it is all over the place. Take “Cutting Up All Of Our Dreams” for example, which is performed a capella. He sings the main vocal, while his mum leads a choir. Let’s just think about this a minute. Not only has he involved his family in this, which is somewhat unusual, he provided his mum with a musical score in a time when many musicians don’t read music, who then provided the arrangement. To hear these luscious female vocals singing “gaze in the gutter” makes me smile each and every time I hear it. Then contrast that with the following “Drop Dead ‘s Punching Above His Weight Again” when long-suffering sideman Gareth Cole comes in just to provide some delightful power chords and edge. A special mention should also be made here of drummer Michael Cairns, who throughout the album manages to capture just what is required, sometimes not playing while at others providing just an illusion of stability and just enough drive to keep everything grounded.
That bloody face is still staring at me from the cover, and it and I both know I haven’t really done this album justice. There are times when I feel my scribbles are woefully inadequate and this is one of those. This won’t be for everyone; it isn’t one of those albums which can be neatly placed into a pigeonhole and categorised so that people can easily understand what it is all about. ‘Demon’ is an album which needs to be played and savoured with an open mind, by those who are prepared to do exactly what I did which is listen to the album for the sole purpose of listening to the album, as opposed to having it on in the background while doing something else. ‘Demon’ really is an end to itself: it demands to be treated with respect, and in that way feels like an album of 60 years ago as opposed to something ephemeral and disposable like so many others. Commercial, progressive, unusual, strange, compelling, different, Tom Slatter, ‘Demon’.