For this month's first jaunt into Uncharted Territory, we are shipping up to Boston to catch up with Timothy William Walsh. Stylised as TW Walsh, he is an artist who very much fits the mould of a musical journeyman. Releasing his first solo album, How We Spend Our Days, in 1999, Walsh has gone on to perform with multiple bands including Pedro The Lion and The Soft Drugs while also mastering for artists as varied as Sufjan Stevens (one of my personal heroes), Cold War Kids and Nathaniel Rateliff And The Night Sweats. The album on which we are going to focus is Terrible Freedom, his fourth and most recent solo endeavour, which was released in April.
The tone for the album is set by opening track My Generation, a slamming indictment of modern society which acerbically swings and connects with The Avengers, social media, technology and prescription medication. The true beauty of the track, however, is not its cutting lyrics but its soaring 80s intro which had me pressing Spotify's skip back button so many times that it's a wonder I even listened to the rest of the record. Dropout continues the dewy-eyed motif on a track that longs for the escapism of a bygone era when all you needed was a car, a radio and a beckoning sunset. High Numbers lulled me into a gentle hypnosis with its smooth guitar backdrop and lyrics to get lost in.
Dead Landmines invokes a powerful series of images, each one accompanied by the overriding elitist mantra 'it's fine'. A parable about the insulated nature of modern life told by guitars tinged with melancholia, Walsh's assertion that 'The child skips through the dead landmines//It's fine//My paycheck's on time' is as shocking as it is adeptly observed. Over the foot-stepping beat of a perpetual drum, Walsh leads us up Mt. Confusion – a metaphor for letting go of our perceived power, admitting that we don't have all the answers and viewing our society with the fresh eyes of change. It stands out as the album's most powerful call to action. The record closes out with the poignant and epic Is That Wrong?, a testament and tribute to family life, loves and the things that keep us strong when we return to their stability at the end of a gruelling day.
Musically, the album is superb. While we have seen a resurgence of artists delving into the techniques and styles of the 80s in a slapdash 'throw a synthesiser at it and see what happens' way, the same cannot be said for Walsh. Every decision taken on Terrible Freedom carries with it authenticity at its heart. These are not facsimiles of an era now deemed en vogue, instead they are precious heirlooms protected and sheltered from the weathers of time so that they might delight a new audience with their splendour. Walsh's voice has an effortless versatility. In its quieter moments, it glides through the tracks with the grace of a melodious dolphin before bursting through the surface of the water and exploding into a cacophonous routine of tricks and tumbles.
As far as 'state of the crumbling world' records go (and I have heard a lot recently), there is a subtle charm to Terrible Freedom. Rather than ranting at the universe, Walsh merely asks what freedom and liberty mean to us in today's complicated society and how that has changed over time. L. P. Hartley once described the past as a 'foreign country' and this is a sentiment that is invoked in this record. By using 80s sounds, Walsh is almost inviting us to travel back in time with him and view the 21st century as an observer – to essentially return to a state of childlike innocence and evaluate the cause and effect that has brought us to this point. Humour is used to great effect in making these observations, most often in a 'if I don't laugh, I'll cry' fashion – lyrics that on the surface appear flippant more often than not carry a deep intellect at their core which makes the work both refreshing and accessible. Intelligent, truthful and basking in an immaculate nostalgia, Terrible Freedom is an album that earmarks TW Walsh as an artist to whom you should readily give your undivided attention.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“My generation's full of strangers//Who wanna stay inside and play”
Rallies against modern life
Longs for simpler times
As always, please feel free to write your own review using the comments section below. The more the merrier. Please do take note of our contribution guidelines. Looking forward to hearing what you thought.