The “music business” is an elusively defined entity which has no clear ladder of success. Some people break out online with a viral video, some bands, including my favourite band Elbow, work diligently at their specific sound for years before achieving commercial success, and some bands fall to the wayside no matter how they work and how they sound. As a musician, it’s easy to forget the impetus for launching a career in music. Bogged down with guaranteed draws, contracts, fundraising and promotion, many of my friends and associates have expressed frustration at the mercurial and cutthroat industry in which they chose to take part.
I have never talked to anyone who says they started a career in music for the business itself. Everyone musician I know understood the poignancy of a good song at a good time and launched their own career in an attempt to create that gift for someone else.
Tumbler’s “Come to the Edge” is an exploration of the joys of music. Its twelve songs feature a range of Mersey Beat, punk, overdriven guitars, 80's synths, and guitar harmonics, and its unpretentious charm is refreshing and honest in a world full of bands trying to make it.
Based in Epsom, UK, Harry and Richard Grace started writing music in their dad’s kitchen in frequent impromptu jam sessions. Richard, in the band’s press release, says “A lot of the songs on this album reflect a time when weekends were full of family music, when guitars and home-made songs were the currency of togetherness.”
These humble origins give the band empathy, and their lyrics complement the down-to-earth nature of the band with frequent interjections of “babe,” “oh my God,” even “Doo-doo-be-doo-doo-doo.” They describe “camembert sandwiches,” “a silvery moon,” and a “revolution to freedom.” They write with sensory images and seem to be firm believers of the “show, don't tell” style of songwriting.
Occasionally, Come to the Edge” is overambitious, musically and lyrically. The band writes “Joanne with silence above her/ Walking slowly on rivers of water/ Like when we were young/ There’s a beauty in widows that weep/ There is peace in the eyes of the sleeping/ Before you/ Before you I kneel down/ And still weeping.” Sentimentality can easily veer into the realm of the maudlin, and Tumbler hovers on the edge on several songs. They stretch the phrase “oak trees” into “oaken trees” to fit the syllables of the line and intersperse exclamations to fill out sentences: “Ten years nearly, hell, love really can be blind.” The synthetic strings in track #8 “Diamond in a Drawer” are cheesy, and the following track “Joanne” has a synthetic choir which doesn’t match the poignancy of the lyrics, rendering them ineffective.
That being said, the band’s ambitiousness is part of what makes this album work; the musical diversity doesn’t sound so much like a band pushing itself as it does a band having some fun. You can hear the joy in these songs, especially in track #5 “Sweetest Thing,” which opens with the band messing around and talking with each other, before a jaunty guitar and piano intro. This song is my favourite of the album, and stands out among the rest with strong Kooks and Beatles influences. Tumbler sound comfortable here, and the emphasis on melody suits the Grace’s voices well.
“Come to the Edge” is only the group’s sophomore release, and is a strong introduction for Tumbler. I would be excited to hear more music, and to hear the band grow as it continues to enjoy exploring musical genres and instrumentation.
Bandcamp link: http://tumblermusic.com/album/come-to-the-edge
1. Black Sheep
2. Don't Take Much
4. Nothing to Hold You
5. Sweetest Thing
7. Winter Cold Heart
8. Diamond in a Drawer
10. In Safe Hands (ft. Jim Grace)
12. Freedom the Cry