It’s not like Thomas White needs the extra workload. His famously packed musical CV – utility melodicist for Electric Soft Parade, all-action Brakes guitarist, drummer with dark surf instrumentalists Restlesslist and thematic garage rockers Clowns, current regular guitarist for Patrick Wolf, live stand-in and sessioneer for Sparks, British Sea Power, Cornershop, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, The Pipettes and the Levellers – tells its own story. Then again, getting to flex your creative muscles and freeing your creative brain cells from all that must be a massive relief.
Where 2008′s solo debut I Dream Of Black was an uneven but intriguing ride through four-track psych-pop with some garnishing sonic experiments, The Maximalist sees White throw nearly all caution to the wind, or possibly shit against a wall to see how much sticks. Within this kaleidoscopic 56 minutes White throws in a whole range of influences. Opener ‘Introducing The Band…’ samples some hard rock riffola and portentious prog overdubs, and the album finishes with ‘…Lost’ and its grand sweep of Zombies-recalling hazy strings, contemplative electronic dreamscape undertow and nostalgic lyrics, plus a whistling solo towards the end.
For the most part White pitches his oeuvre into a West Coast psychedelia field, but in a way that keeps the attentive listener on their toes. The prime example is over the seven and a half minutes of ‘The Weekend’. The subtly shifting laid-back feel betrays a slight air of prime time Flaming Lips, or more precisely the High Llamas’ adventures in similar grounds, it’s glued together by the cornet of the album’s sole other musician, British Sea Power’s Phil Sumner. Halfway through it dissolves into slo-mo guitar soloing which fades to cut-up static and distant spoken word before re-emerging in power-pop territory. ‘The Last Blast’, apparently a treatise on WWII novelist Sven Hassel with White exhibiting a restrained anger, comes on like Weezer with a rocket up their backsides and a horde of Super Furry Animals records on the studio player. Even more, all over the place ‘Moonlight And Snow’ plays with Beach Boys harmonies and flirts with 1970s soft rock before falling into an extended break lifted from some post-Aphex Warp Records parallel universe. ‘The Devil In The Trojan Horse’ begins with Western harmonica before evolving into acoustic strumming not far from Elliott Smith, before turning, without warning, into Smashing Pumpkins distorted post-grunge guitar. Tellingly, the album’s two covers, (a Warren Zevon and Guided By Voices), are played fairly straight to their original styles.
Ultimately, and in no small amount ironically, it’s White’s ADD approach to melodic fruition that stops The Maximalist achieving its primed kaleidoscopic magnum opus status. Some songs drag on for a minute or two further than necessary, whilst others fail to locate that key moment that would pin down their emotive core. Not that White is incapable of exploiting subtlety towards a properly affecting moment, as with the Syd Barrett echoes of ‘Starry Nite #4′, which shows not everything needs to have a mid-song breakdown or curveball thrown in. Further listens help the overall mood to gel, but the album falters under the weight of ideas fighting their way into pleasingly coasting subtleties.