By John Ray
One of the great claims of punk is that beauty thrives in the grit. Sounds that can make hungover mornings and lonely nights a little prettier are among the best the genre can produce. Such is the mission of groups like Thought Beneath Film, whose debut EP posits a type of melodic grunge poised to substantiate the genre’s lofty promises.
While powered by the heavy beats and electric licks of more glamorous forebears, Thought Beneath Film wears literary references on its sleeves. It’s hard to avoid the pretentiousness that permeates the album, but the fact that the music is so damn fun serves as its saving grace. And there are so many worse things than a pop album that embraces erudition in the name of pop. Titles like “Hearts on Overdrive” are a bit much (come to think of it, so is “Thought Beneath Film”) but despite Detours being a first album it listens like people absolutely confident in what they’re doing.
With five tracks Detours doesn’t have much time to waste, and the loose bits in “False Skin” and “Maybe I’m A Chump” detract from the powerful structure present in the rest of the album. “Hearts on Overdrive” matches the early work of Michael Angelakos or Sleigh Bells. The involvement of Bob Ludwig’s mastering shows throughout, and the album has an efficient but dirty sound. The departures from that are its weakest moments. Otherwise the album is electrifying.
This year’s release by Vancouver’s Anchoress pulled a similar trick to what helps set Thought Beneath Film apart, imbuing a heavily emotional style with an intellectual sensibility that leaves an album greater than the sum of its parts. Taken alone a smattering of references to mid-nineteenth century poets isn’t much, and pop punk at its best is merely fun. But combined in the interesting, challenging and rewarding way that Thought Beneath Film chose has left us with Detours, one of the sleeper hits of the year.