There’s something about The Drew Thomson Foundation that emanates a sense of purity. Maybe it’s because this is the more straightforward, personal side-project of its eponymous mainman away from the more volatile punk environs of his day job fronting Single Mothers, but it’s the general lack of pretension or greater motive than making music for the love of music that ultimately feels like the kicker. In all of its previous material, The Drew Thomson Foundation has been rooted in no-frills indie-rock that could be uninspired or boring in the wrong hands, but Thomson’s ear for a timeless melody and vintage power-pop hook has always withheld, and that gives a lot of hope for this self-titled debut album. Sure, he’s yet to have put out that real killer to fully distance this from simple side-project territory, but the talent and songwriting chops have always been there.
But when viewed from that perspective, it can be a bit difficult to discern whether this album does hit those heights. It’s undoubtedly very good, capturing an essence of personality and maturity that comes from Thomson’s own sobriety and weathering through hardships in life, but it’s not quite to the level of excellence that could see it hit that tiny bit harder. For what it is, and for what Thomson can do with a relatively narrow set of stylistic tools at his disposal, this is well worth a listen with a lot to enjoy, but the next step up is frustratingly in reach but never really gone for.
It’s not too hard to see where Thomson does fall short either, mostly because this is a rather simple album in terms of construction. The stripes of classic, Weezer-esque power-pop and indie-rock are laid out bare, and the slight fuzziness that balances out with razor-sharp melodies and hooks does have a refreshing familiarity to it. And that can be where the shakiest ground is, mostly because there’s not a whole lot that differentiates this from the scores of other bands in the same lane, all the way down to Thomson’s slightly nasal and unrefined vocal delivery. It’s more of a case of playing unnecessarily safely rather than anything truly bad, as, as established earlier, Thomson really does have a knack for hitting that bar of simplistic but catchy-to-a-fault indie-rock that’s bursting with heart and passion. Tracks like A Little More Time and Low have that recognisability in their scruffy guitar tone and progressions (especially in the chugging, grungier riff-work of the latter), but they pull it off enough to hit that sweet spot overall, while LA Lately dips into more ragged pop-rock tones that places Thomson right the way forward to accentuate how ludicrous catchy his vocals lines are. And even with the simplicity of its execution, there’s still enough meat in the lyrics to keep this as a strong, worthwhile listen; there are definite detours taken into the usual nostalgic roads that this sort of indie-rock is deeply planted in and that doesn’t help the case for individuality any further, but on tracks like Stay which sees Thomson come to terms with the death of his grandmother, or Pace Yourself in which he looks on his current sober state, there’s enough in the way of personal stakes to prevent this album from getting completely lost in the shuffle.
Indeed, for as few bells and whistles are here, there’s enough to fully back how talented of an artist Thomson is, and enough to stand out regardless of a sonic palette that mightn’t be quite as wide as others. Looking past all of that, the hooks are unshakably solid, there’s a keen ear for melody pretty much across the board, and while Thomson mightn’t be breaking any new ground in his writing for the most part, the warmth and charm he displays is hard to argue with. It might be a bit hard to argue for the longevity of an album like this, especially when there’s no real shortage of them, but this is more than worth some attention, if only to shine a light on an artist who has more to offer than ever before.
For fans of: Weezer, Third Eye Blind, Nervus
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Drew Thomson Foundation’ by The Drew Thomson Foundation is released on 6th September on Dine Alone Records.