How Are You Coping With This Century? by Novelty IslandRelease date: October 15, 2021
Label: Think Like a Key Music
How would I describe the scenery? A storybook that you haven’t read for many, many years is covered with dust. Once you cleaned it up, you decide to open the book in all of its glory. It is revealed to be someone’s life being told as an opera in the forms of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. And that is quite an evidential scenery from the mind of Novelty Island.
Novelty Island is the brain child of Tom McConnell. His music is like walking towards the beaches in Brighton with a sunny-side up psychedelic vibration. He brings these ingredients to the kitchen table with his long-awaited debut release from the label, Think Like a Key Music entitled, How Are You Coping With This Century?
I first became aware of Tom’s music thanks to Purson’s Rosalie Cunningham who shared a YouTube video of his song, ‘The Desperately Strange’ last year on her Facebook page back in July during the pandemic. For me, this was like a revelation that is waiting to happen.
McConnell himself has this weird sense of humor that just clicked with me right from the moment I watched the video. And when I watched it about three times, I knew right then and there I had to keep an eye out for him to see what he will do next. While the video had clips from series like; Fawlty Towers, The Simpsons, Eastenders, Cheers, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it has this drinking prog-like sing-along that got to me.
I nearly wept hearing this song because it wasn’t just the missing key, but the spirit of the Liverpool sound that is once alive again. With his debut album, Tom takes us through hallucinated clouds by being free from the craziness that is going in the outside world. ‘Citrus Wood’ has laddering arrangements and flowering mellotron beauty.
You can hear these gentle acoustic rivery effects, reflecting psychedelic gumdrop rainfalls and vocals reminiscing The Move’s ‘Beautiful Daughter’ as Tom channels the late, great Carl Wayne. Both ‘Blackcurrant Sky’ and ‘Listen’ sees Tom going into the Sicilian sounds from The Godfather’s piano piece, ‘This Loneliness’ by Francis’ dad, Carmine Coppola.
Both of these tracks have various intriguing momentum. You have one going for a broadway-like structure with these Chicago-sque horn sections that resemble from the first two albums, and the other floating throughout the city of Liverpool with sliding structures that have these themes written for Belle and Sebastian.
‘Jangleheart’ has Beatle-sque textures of The Who, The La’s, XTC, and Alice Cooper’s ‘Be My Lover’. I could tell that Tom is channeling his inner Pete Townshend-like style on his guitar by making it sound like a flamenco arrangement while the opening song ‘This Bird’ features a ragtime Leslie piano flying through the city to look at the daily life of what other people do for a living.
‘Ladybird’ has a jazzy-folk guitar ballad that has textures of Eric Clapton’s ‘Change the World’. The only criticism I have with the song is the usage of the pick Bass being played. I felt that it was out of place and I wished that Tom could have used a String Bass to get that Bebop sound from the 1950s.
‘Blank Wine’ is a nod to Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything-era meets The Last Hurrah’s Mudflowers. While it has a driven composition with romantic lyrics a-la Americana style, it is almost as if Novelty Island had written this as a sequel to ‘I Saw The Light’ as ‘Turtle Rock’ sees Tom going for the jugular with a late ‘70s/early ‘80s Arena Rock sound with a Pat Benatar groove that make his guitar sound like train-chugging riffs.
‘Michael Afternoon’ is a story inside the mental patient’s mind that he is going through. Like something straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, we know that he will never be free from the asylum that he’s in, but the music has this structure of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded-era.
Novelty Island’s debut album is quite a unique release this year for Tom McConnell. He has brought a lot of hope and visions for 2021 so far. Not only that, but you have to give Frankie Tibbles, Jan Simson, Max Verclas, Stella Massonnet, Max Clilverd, and Carlos Lellis a whole lot of credit for giving Tom a helping hand to bring How Are You Coping with this Century to Life in all of its glory.
They weren’t just bandmates, but they worked together as a team to bring Tom McConnell’s debut album to bloom like a flower that is ready to erupt.