Next week, singer/songwriter Fred Thomas releases his newest full length album, Changer, and it has this writer feeling all sorts of nostalgia while still looking forward. Following Thomas’ last effort, Minim; an electronic caravan of minute-long songs, it was tough to predict what the Yipsilanti, MI songwriter would deliver.
To begin with, the title of this LP should not be ignored, nor any album’s title for that matter. The word Changer serves as a red curtain for the listener. Within one simple noun, Thomas biographs his prior 20+ years in music. To most people that have followed his career Fred Thomas is a changer after playing in bands like Saturday looks Good to Me, Swimsuit, and Failed Flowers.
Changer opens with the post-punk track, Misremembered, widely instrumented with electric guitars, synths and even a soft vocal accompaniment that repeats the song title when the band pauses for a chorus. As the title suggests, Misremembered warns about the dangers of nostalgia and how we turn our memories into something they aren’t; something we spend too much time longing for at times.
It’s the next couple of tracks where the old Fred Thomas shines through. With classic song structures and chord driven sounds, Reactionary and 2008 talk about people that don’t do anything about their crummy situations. “They’re culminating in another year, that you spend curled up in a ball, claiming, ‘oh my God, I hate it here’, but God already knows you hate it here” he sings to two chords.
My favorite track on the Changer, Voiceover, is a look at the present moment and how Fred feels as well as the rest of us who are longtime listeners of his music (a nice way of saying he has a mature crowd). Getting older is something we cannot run away from but we don’t have to lose our passion in life and that’s what the lyrics deal with in this song layered on top of an intricate chord progression. “…All these regular feelings” Thomas sings about and we know exactly what he means by that.
So what is the overall concept Fred Thomas is trying to convey on Changer? This can be best summed up on the track Echolocation towards the end of the album. Instrumented mainly with synthesizers and a minimal drum beat, the song sounds like an homage to his prior, Minim, an album that deviated greatly from the guitar driven sound we expect from Thomas. This sonic texture in Echolocation represents the future Thomas wants for his music. While electronic may or may not be what he wants to do forever, it’s clear that Fred will continually redefine his sound for his own sanity and perhaps for ours as well. The lyrics “…between the person you were, and the person you became” tell the listener that it’s okay to change during your life. Too many people get stuck doing the same thing for so long that they start to think that they don’t have any other options or routes to take before their time is up.
At the end of it all, Changer is a biography; not of the songwriter Fred Thomas but of all of us. We all know people who haven’t changed or maybe some of us are that person. On some levels, that can be a good thing if it’s really what we want. However, if that is not what you’re looking for, that’s okay too; you’re allowed to change and if you want to change, Fred Thomas’ Changer is probably the best soundtrack for it.
Click here to hear Voiceover
– By Mike Metcalf