2 out of 5
Label: See Thru Broadcasting
Produced by: John Parish
My favorite producer – Dave Sardy – had his own label. I was pee-peeing myself with excitement, which is admittedly sort of my usual state, but this wasn’t just the light spritz that sluices my way from place to place, but rather a full flood of wee, flooding over everyone I could try to show my Barkmarket CDs to and tell them (force them!) to get excited over this new See Thru Broadcasting label.
The first few releases were either linked to past Sardy works – Enon, John Stuart Mill – and / or bore his amazing production – Starlight Mints – or felt sonically aligned with some of Sardy’s best work – Mike G, Radar Bros.
And then there was Thou. Thou seemed to get more press than other See Thru releases (which, to a huge Skeleton Key fan like m’self, seemed like an affront); make of the fact that the label went dormant after ‘Put Us In Tune’ came out what you will. At a superficial, first look / first glance level, I saw an odd name for Sardy-adjacent work on the album – P.J. Harvey collaborator John Parish (Harvey just seemed outside of Sardy’s typical aural wheelhouse at that point) – and the European groove sound, a la Stereolab, felt even more distant from what I expected.
Diligent fanboy I was, though, I gave it a listen several times through, deemed it pretty good! and then never listened to it ever again. I mean, every now and then, I’d do a guilt-listen, just to prove my dedication to the See Thru Sardy army, which did eventually result in a realization: the first half of the album is pretty good, and it’s this first half that sets my foot tapping, and head bobbing, and thinking that I should go back and give these Thou cats another listen.
I don’t find the material particularly deep or affecting, but it’s got bop. Gwenmars, another labelmate, has some pretty dumb lyrics, but they nail the glittery rock thing to a rocketship that soars across the whole disc. Mike G.’s stripped down, silly poems are fairly juvenile, but they capture a really pure sense of emotion and marry it to a bottom-heavy mix that stains the memory. In comparison, Thou’s words don’t really register as anything, and the tunes are very fleeting, but the way the group flips between sing-songy female and male vocals on different tracks, and juxtaposes pleasing pop with some hardcore riffage works to distract.
It’s the disc’s latter half where things start to go sour; where the lack of consistency or anything that tries for more than surface level becomes more of an annoyance than something that can function as casual background music. So as Thou scrabbles for an identity during Put Us In Tune’s outset, they piece together their best and most stable ideas, leaving only scraps for the rest of the disc. They’re just ear-wormy enough to get you to listen, but then offer nothing in return.