With thousands of years of musical history behind us and getting on for seventy since the birth of rock and roll, it’s rare that we come across genuinely original music makers but one man always looking to expand our musical horizons is Thomas Truax. The wandering minstrel of Wowtown has been firing our imaginations with his band of self-invented instruments since we first came across his uncanny stage show at Truckfest in 2003 – a wonderfully disorienting concoction of Tom Waits’ storytelling, dark-tinged Americana and Tim Burton-esque mechanical contraptions that was quite unlike anything that we’d seen before, or indeed since.
Fifteen years later with the release of his ninth studio album All That Heaven Allows the eccentricity may now be expected but is no less beguiling. Very much rooted in current events, most acutely in the opening double-salvo of call away from arms ‘Humane Train’ and ‘International Homeland Security’, but maintaining Truax’s familiar otherworldly atmosphere throughout. This is an album that addresses modern anxieties and dreams of escape, returning to the utopia of Truax’s surreal homeland in the bluesy stomper ‘Swimming Back to Wowtown’, and taking to the skies in a home-made flying machine in the captivating narrative of ‘Tonight We’re Gonna Fly’.
It’s not all gloom and doom though, with the darkness sandwiched between two hearty slices of hope: opener ‘Humane Train’ is an overt appeal for peace and togetherness, while final track ‘Your Ever Changing Face’ speaks of a love that transcends time and celebrates the transformations of the aging process.
Musically the album feeds off a diet of blues, misty-eyed, reverb-fuelled rock & roll and the occasional burst of lo-fi punk, with creepy horror movie music-box motifs and sweeping moments that might suit an imagined film score thrown into the mix, each imbued with the eccentric spin of Truax and his menagerie of invented bandmates. Though on this album mechanical drummer Mother Superior, mutant gramophone The Hornicator and the rest are joined by an impressive cast of collaborators, including Brian Viglione of Dresden Dolls, Swans’ Paul Wallfisch and singer Gemma Ray who joins Thomas on vocals for the lilting ‘Save Me’.
Fans of Truax will find plenty to love here, particularly in the wonky animal fable of ‘Precarious Waltz’, and if you’ve yet to experience his eerie, magical world, you’ve got a fantastical journey of discovery ahead of you and All That Heaven Allows is the perfect place to begin.
Review by Paul Maps
All That Heaven Allows is out now on Psycho Teddy Records. Thomas Truax is currently on tour around the UK – catch him at the following venues:
16 Feb, Fri: Scunthorpe Cafe Indiependent
22 Feb, Thurs: Plymouth The Red House
24 Feb, Sat: Exeter, Cavern
4 March, Sun: Manchester Night and Day (supporting Bob Log III)
14 March, Wed: London, Paper Dress (Headline)
16 March, Fri: Railway Hotel, Clifftown Road
20 March, Tues: Cardiff, The Globe (supporting Bob Log III)
22 March, Thurs: Norwich Arts Centre (supporting Bob Log III)
28 March Leek Foxlowe Arts Centre (ST13 6AD) (supporting Bob Log III)
29 March Halifax, The Lantern (HX1 1BS) (supporting Bob Log III)