Know Your Product
Thank You: Golden Worry
Published: February 9, 2011
All bands have two faces—one live, one in the studio—as only mass marketers aim to make everything sound Starbucks consistent. Baltimore trio Thank You, though, is one of those befuddling groups where that divide sometimes feels unreconciled. Onstage guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Jeffrey McGrath and bassist/keyboardist Michael Bouyoucas can sound like they’re taunting each other, moving from interwoven sheets of frenetic chord-strum to restless counterpoint, draping a layer of droning keys over a low-end groan until a melody squeaks out like air slowly fleeing a balloon. And in drummer Emmanuel Nicolaidis, who took over the kit after the departure of Elke Wardlaw, Thank You contains a rhythmic dynamo who can push, steer, and explode at any given moment. This lineup is—and has proven to be countless times—a band as pliable, responsive, and capable of going in every different direction at once as Slovenly or Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, swerving from blasts as melodically noisy as the Pin Group to harmonies as noisily pop as the Pastels.
On album, well, that hyperkinetic energy and unfettered idea well gets flattened into the chaste. Golden Worry, the band’s third LP and first with Nicolaidis, sticks to a happy middle where the tempos are always upbeat but jittery, the guitars furiously strummed, the vocals hitting that Animal Collective campfire ether, and the overall mood one of ebullient glee. That’s lead track “1-2-3 Bad” in a nutshell. Now, vary the formula slightly five more times to fill out the album.
That’s not dismissively reductive, merely the resounding impression of listening to this half-hour outing on headphones on repeat for a few hours. Thank You live sets are marked by their schizophrenic dynamics, their symphonic surges and lurching eruption. Here the peaks and valleys are less arrestingly sculpted. Golden Worry quiets down momentarily in the keyboard intro to “Birth Reunion,” but two minutes in a heckler-spray of guitar treble fires up to keep the song in the album’s mid-range sweet spot. Worry contains fleeting moments of Thank You’s beautiful contradictions: the waterfall of keyboard notes cascading over Nicolaidis’ puddle-jumping percussion around “Birth Reunion’s” three-minute mark, the textural contrast that powers “Pathetic Magic” for a minute before the dream-pop starts up, the chaotic bridge that massages the ears around the three-minute mark of “Continental Divide.” But on album they feel reined in, concessions to maintain an appealing placating tone. That aspect doesn’t make Golden Worry an inferior album—in fact, it’s an album that goes down as easy as any buzz-worthy indie art-rock. And that’s the only gripe with this pair of ears: Thank You in the studio sounds safe, and these three musicians are anything but.
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