It was back in June 2020 when The Cool Greenhouse released their eponymous debut album, and I was instantly hooked on their angular repetition, wonky riffs and lyrical mastery, so when I got the notification of a new album I wondered if they could catch linguistic and musical lightning in a bottle twice. The answer is an unequivocal yes!
Sod’s Toastie is another logophile’s utopia where words are the benign rulers over a jagged, minimal landscape of riffs and beats. The opening track ‘Musicians’ is an exemplar for the album: it starts with an atonal guitar line over the factory setting on a drum machine with Tom Greenhouse’s sing-song delivery setting out his mission to recruit musicians for his band – because “apparently people like to watch musicians” – via a trip to get a haircut from a barber who is “partially deaf and partially dead and totally uninterested in fashion, although he has reinvented Communism all by his self”. When the drums and percussion kick in with bass riff and keyboard call and response the whole song starts to bounce along like the best atonal disco track you never knew you needed.
In a nutshell, this is the brilliance of the band, putting together a lyrical and musical crucible where the apparent mundanity of life can be transformed into gold. The story of the title track, ‘Sod’s Toastie’, is a litany of mishaps when attempting to make a coffee and a cheese toastie, ‘The UFOs’ protagonist, Blinkus Booth, who is getting packets of rotting bacon from a secret admirer and Simon in ‘Get Unjaded’ who has lost his pet lamprey, “his only source of intimacy” and spins in circles to radio static whilst watching ‘Can’t Cook Won’t Cook’.
Like the best novels Tom Greenhouse knows how to catch you with an opening line: “Thank fucking Christ if you can find the end of the Sellotape in under 15 minutes” (‘Sod’s Toastie’), “And it’s no wonder people don’t like to talk about their masturbatory experiences” (‘Get Deluded’) and the aforementioned lamprey at the start of ‘Get Unjaded’ and there’s even a nod to the Talking Heads on ‘Get Deluded’ with lines like “and you may find yourself shoplifting un-needed breath mints”, “and you may ask yourself…well…what the fuck am I doing with my life?” plus a sliver of ‘Born Under Punches’ the start of ‘The Neoprene Ravine’.
Given the way they blur the line between the everyday and the surreal they could have been Salvador Dali’s house band, and virtually every song could be commissioned for television and become a cult drama; I vote for a fly on the wall series that follows the band called The Surreal House-Scribes of Norfolk County. From the 4-track-in-a-bedroom simplicity of ‘I Lost My Head’, the almost-glam rock swagger of ‘Hard Rock Potato’ to the jagged waltz of ‘The Neoprene Ravine’, The Cool Greenhouse show no signs of softening their sharp edges. Tom Greenhouse’s command of vowels and consonants is crisp and golden delicious and Sod’s Toastie is a triumph from composition to lexicon.
Review by Paul F Cook