All Are Saved (Polyvinyl)
If you haven’t heard of Fred Thomas, that’s probably because he’s what could be considered an ‘artist’s artist’. In reality he’s an indie rock lifer who has been releasing records since the late 90s and one of those guys who has a ten album back catalogue, and all this quiet experience has resulted in a person who has truly honed his craft. Thomas is capable of calving out lyrical truths out of urban minutiae that will resonate with anyone who has had a clumsy first love, had a toxic friendship or simply been a child.
Thomas operates firmly in the realms of indie rock but also adds plenty of transgressive energy to his music, and this is pushed to all new levels on All Are Saved. Album opener ‘Every Song Sung To A Dog’ is as ambitious as its title with clanging melody that drives the track froward. But it’s Thomas’ lyricism that stands front and centre, here recounting the last days of his dying dog, contemplating on the prospect of existing as a human, rather than a dog, being a “shitty deal”.
This knack for observational and often comedic storytelling is where Thomas really excels, especially in the case of highlight ‘Bad Blood’. It’s here that Thomas reaches for his inner bile and lays down some harsh truths about friendship and relationships: “It’s that song everybody loves / But the lyrics are garbage / And it stresses me out / How often your mentioned” he recounts with deadpan James Murphy-esque delivery, but these tales are uniformly brought to bare with crystalline clarity.
In the case of the relentlessly catchy ‘Cops Don’t Care Pt. II’, Thomas delves into the world of clumsy teenage relationships “Like a kiss on a bridge / Between two nervous-ass kids / Terrified of doing everything wrong”. It would be a rare person indeed who isn’t capable of relating to that.
All Are Saved has a compelling aesthetic. For all Thomas’ existential angst, which is constantly, and entertainingly ubiquitous, the musicality is uniformly optimistic. The layers of lo-fi drums and bright guitar lines coalesce with interesting textures of creaking whirrs and fractured keyboards audible in the middle distance. This gives the tracks on All Are Saved a looseness that fits the album’s ramshackle nature, like an auditory garage sale of sonic brick-a-brack, that comes across like a day-glo Guided By Voices.
In All Are Saved, Fred Thomas has continued his trajectory of witty, observational indie earworms, but also manages to amp up the hate a little bit, too, which suits him pretty well.