Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Make Me Believe In Hope

Bright Light Bright Light is the nom de pop of Rod Thomas from Neath. His debut album, Make Me Believe In Hope, is currently illuminating the murkier chambers of my black heart. In this era of Simon Cowell-validated musical vacuity, pop has become a dirty word. The alchemical process that turns an unknown into a star is now more important than the potentially transformative power of the songs themselves. As a consequence craft and intelligence are no longer words that we readily associate with pop music - but here you'll find both in abundance.

Make Me Believe In Hope charts the everyday crises and small earthquakes that make up ordinary relationships: the pursuit of love; the abandonment of love; the rejection of love. You know, the really important stuff. The diction may be simple - hearts, love, and light get mentioned a lot - but the lyrical content has deceptive emotional depth. The twin guiding presences on this recording are Hope and Vulnerability who preside over affairs like Classical deities. It's also worth noting that the majority of tracks are gender and sexuality unspecific allowing listeners maximum scope to fit their own relationship triumphs and (mostly) disasters within the parameters of each song.

The real strength of the album, though, is the deft balance Thomas strikes between lyric, melody and rhythm. He's obviously a bit of a wizard in the technical department but none of his tunes ever sink under a weight of meretricious knob twiddling or lurch off into onanistic beats and blips odysseys. All component parts are subservient to the integrity of The Song itself. Killer melodies (A New Word to Say); adrenalin rush surges (Waiting For the Feeling and How to Make a Heart); and moments of heart-stopping beauty (Debris) crop up throughout the album but are always wonderfully well controlled and delivered with crisp precision.

After a Cinderella moment in the limelight superannuated pop stars often have a belated stab at authenticity. Rod Thomas has taken the opposite career path, going from serious acoustic performer to purveyor of glittering pop. Clearly what he has retained from his previous incarnation is the ability to write and structure really strong songs. His influences are fairly brazenly worn: Pet Shop Boys, '80s synth pop, House, but he is not in thrall to any of them and here manages successfully to forge his own musical identity. Pop has always implied transience but Rod Thomas's outstanding songwriting skills and his in demand production talents might suggest otherwise. Either way, with this album Bright Light Bright Light is in serious danger of giving the genre its credibility back.

*Make Me Believe In Hope is out now on The Blue Team/Aztec Records and it's a bit of a pop masterpiece.

**Here's a good recent YouTube interview with the man himself.