Thom Bowden allies tenderness to the influence of indie-rock super producer Steve Albini, to mark him as a real talent
As you’d expect from a record treated to such production qualities, Searching The Brittle Light is unashamedly lo-fi. Like Mudhoney taking on The Black Keys, Bowden’s guitar wrestles between crunchy blues and seedy grunge, while bringing in the tension of Fugazi.
This gives the record a vibe that’s both insouciant and frantic. Songs such as opener Click! ooze with the poise of a man who’d kick your pint into the air and catch it in his hand, while Control and the aptly named With Pace sound like the band Jack White might have formed had he grown up playing support act to McClusky – another band to have benefited from the Albini treatment.
Bowden’s voice shares the same flailing rage as McClusky’s Andrew Falkous, allied to the trembling catharsis of Win Butler and Conor Oberst. It’s a voice that sounds bruised but not broken, one that rings with the sincerity of a writer who’s spent many a night with his forehead pressed into his knees; it’s the quality of vulnerability held by cult interests.
This vulnerability manifests itself in his music too. Songs like How About It and The Water Is Cold have a little of the sorrowful indie-folk of The Dodos and Sweet And Tender has the same sense of resignation that’s found in the work of The Milk Carton Kids.
Like garage rock wonderkid Ty Seagul, Bowden is far from a one-trick pony and though Searching The Brittle Light is replete with the music you’d expect of an artist produced by Steve Albini, there’s far more going on than just vitriolic indie-rock.
Verdict: A fine debut album that’s more than the sum of its genre