Tom Jolu - 'Fools, Friends, And The Great Beyond' Album Review
1. I'll Stay
2. Twilight Zone
3. Darlin' Dear
4. Rest Stop Song
5. Madmen Only
6. Keep Going
7. I'm Not Mad, I'm Just Disappointed
9. One More Day
10. From Here
There’s a line a little under halfway through this album, in 'Rest Stop Song', that serves as not only a decent motto for creating but as an underlying sentiment of all of 'Fools, Friends, and the Great Beyond ', "I know if I want to do this right that I have to put up a fight”. This is a collection of 10 songs that doesn’t at all shy away from tackling Big Ideas like trying to find your place in the world on the road, facing loss, mortality, the consequences of yours and other’s actions. But these weighty ideas are tempered by a breadth of songwriting that’s fun and engaging, that conjures up emotional storms and barnstorming dancing deftly.
Opener 'I’ll Stay' begins with a heavy dose of atmosphere from road sounds and Post-Rock reverb laden guitars, laying all the cards on the table emotionally from the outset and providing an early showcase of the fact that this is band that comes together to fire on all cylinders. This also sets the bar high for producer and engineer Matt Ebbers, pulling heavy double duty as drummer throughout.
'Twilight Zone' is the follow up in the one-two punch that sits in familiar Jolu territory of rootsy Indie Rock anchored by Phil Hazen’s saxophone in an album spanning move that consistently adds a twist and flavour that is refreshing for the genre. 'Darlin’ Dear' and the aforementioned 'Rest Stop Song' keep the overall vibe and tempo going strong, with solid bass lines from Conor Mitchell keeping everything equally anchored and grooving.
'Madmen Only' marks a return to the more cinematic tone set up in the opener, trading in deep emotion and resonant soundscapes that build and grow till the song is practically overflowing by the end. In an album that is marked consistently throughout by emotional vulnerability and the rare ability to balance confessional subject matter with catchy, concise lyricism, 'Keep Going' and 'I’m Not Mad, I’m Just Disappointed' feel like they cut close to the bone for Tom Lewis and it’s a commendable effort to let listeners in in such a way.
'Keep Going' also features some excellent guitar interplay between Tom and guitarist James Pilipovic. Given the conceptual nature of the album, you can find a pretty discernable demarcation line between the albums two halves. The cinematic feel and rawness of feeling is present on all the back half of this one. This is where the band and album really shine in my opinion, and it feels like the stronger portion by virtue of the fact that everyone involved is palpably striving in their work to match the intensity of the songs as a whole. But ultimately one wouldn’t work without the other and the first five songs capture the come-up and freewheeling nature of taking off on the road while the latter five definitely feel more like the reckoning of serotonin drop and engaging in the reality of a situation. But still, god damn it, still easy to sing along to earworms that will stick with you ('One More Day' being a particular favorite of mine.)
It would feel false to not mention that these folks are friends of mine, and I did my best to look at this work from as objective an angle as possible. But…the problem with that being it’s a great work of art that grins happily defiant while its heart pumps blood down its sleeve. I don’t think you can listen to this thing and not be affected. So maybe that makes me a fool for my friends, but this one makes considering the wide-open expanse of the great beyond a little bit more bearable. And what more can we ask from our artists but that?
Website - https://tomjolu.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/tomjolu/
Review - Julian Hepworth