Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Then Thickens confront their demons in second album Colic


Release date: 23 October 2015
Then thickens colic
22 October 2015, 11:30 Written by James Appleyard
Behind every band you will find one person who serves as the lynchpin of the whole operation. In the case of Chorley’s Then Thickens, that steadfast force is undoubtedly frontman Jon Lee-Martin.

It also happens that Lee-Martin has turned his entire musical career into an applied demonstration of catharsis as an art form. As one third of the terrifyingly loud, and now disbanded, math-noise outfit Kong, Lee-Martin began to purge his demons, as well as a fair amount of bodily fluids, through apoplectic vocal acrobatics and an opaque face mask that gave him a persona somewhere between Chucky and Ron Jeremy.

It’s with this in mind that Then Thickens becomes even more of an unexpected proposition. After the demise of Kong, Lee-Martin opted to access his more mellow side and set a statement of intent with Then Thickens by way of the sludgy, melodic majesty of their debut Death Cap At Anglezarke.

Now, the band return with their second album Colic, and it’s business as usual. Stomping four-to-the-floor drums? Check. Layered, spritely guitars? Check. Anguished vocals? Check. But the thing that makes Then Thickens a continually interesting prospect is that, in any other hands, all this would come together to form some kind of unspeakably bad indie landfill, but in the case of this band, the results are hard-headed and compelling.

“Heaven Alive” is the kind of track you wish all albums opened with. Its bright burst of melody explodes like a series of miniature supernovas as the warm harmonies and sweeping crashes catapult the track straight into My Morning Jacket territory.

But Colic isn’t all power chords and uplifting choruses. The title prefaces the cathartic nature and painful reticence that underpin the tracks, as the recurring imagery of loss and personal anguish permeate the songs. In “Smothered In Gold” Lee-Martin recounts a night of alcoholic excess followed by a subsequent longing for the safety of his childhood home, but in the context of the song this redemption seems entirely, and devastatingly, unattainable.

In the face of all this existentialism, Colic also has an overriding sonic optimism. The melodic interplay ensures the album stays resolutely upbeat despite Lee-Martin’s ghosts never being far away. “Amsterdam”, a song ostensibly about waiting on a grimy street for a local drug dealer to show up, carries itself with slow burning energy and serves as a gloriously baggy earworm.

Colic is a contrasting landscape inhabited by caricatures and personal demons, all of which are delivered with strikingly comic and grotesque effect. But it’s also an album filled with genuinely uplifting moments. Then Thickens seem to be playing to the old adage ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, and this has certainly led to a contrasting and accomplished set of tracks.

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