“She likes the bad boy, he has a sweet side, she wants to study hard, he wants a double wide trailer bride…”
Full disclosure: Tyson is a close friend of mine. As both ghost writer for his not-yet-written autobiography (“Unforgettably Forgotten”) and fake bandmate in the imaginary Wheatfield Fairies, I hold him incredibly dear to my heart.
I say all of this, not to boast, but to give some perspective on how much I think I know about him. And how he surprises me, musically, every time.
This lovely album is a fever dream, an emotional travelogue, a slice of pop history that is also very NOW. Written in the wilds of Shanghai, the constraints of Saudi Arabia and the familiarity of Oklahoma, Tomorrow in Progress is simultaneously far reaching and still very close to the bone.
“And she wants to find a place, selling acid, gaining weight, a lovely interstate…”
There is a violin that haunts this entire record. Tyson crossed paths with Haffijy in China where he was teaching high school kids about the good old U.S. of A. using Van Halen I as a touchstone. Haffijy was one of those kids, a string prodigy and kindred spirit. That the not-very-rock-and-roll violin is weaved so effortlessly throughout the album is no mean feat. The other co-conspirators include Jimmy from the Smashing Pumpkins, Derek from the Flaming Lips, Matt from Stardeath & White Dwarfs, Jesse from Other Lives along with some crazy Texan prep school kids & a bunch of other talented folks. Fellow Chainsaw Kitten Trent Bell helped put all the pieces together.
There are so many high points here. The Sparks-ian opening track,” Nihilists Need Love Too”, immediately grabs your attention.” Kiss Me Arabia” is reminiscent of “Killing an Arab” if Robert Smith had read more Isherwood and less Kafka. But it is “Mao into Madame Mao into Marvin Gaye” where the genius spirit of both Brians (Eno & Wilson) meet with astonishing results. This track, much like the whole album, is a multi-layered masterpiece where the simplicity of hand claps & multi-tracked vocals are perfect touches reminiscent of a sparse “Heroes & Villains”.
“I don’t know what I’m doing here, or why I am a part of this, connected by some need, some kind of universal desperateness…”
Which brings us to “Jump Punks”, a song so simple, so gorgeous & so necessary. It paints a beautiful vision of a terrible scenario and calls to mind a melancholy rewrite of Tom Petty’s “American Girl”. Absolutely flawless.
“Winter Boys Cutting the Rug” is a haunted, lactose intolerant Bowie, coked out and crazed in Berlin, trying to find Luther Vandross but ending up chain smoking cigarettes with Terry & the Pirates. Which is like most of this album. Funny, sweet, poignant, like reading a book written by one of your smartest friends. It is full of beautiful language, obscure references and a kind of odd knowledge that you only get with experience.
And finally, “Buddy Dash”. The perfect closer. I first heard this song in a distracted state, weeks before I heard the entire album. I couldn’t pay attention to the lyrics but was thrilled that Tyson had chosen this as the album’s swan song. An alternative pop gem so shiny, I could imagine Katy Perry belting it out. And then I listened more closely. This is a meditation on our culture, a woeful, tuneful slice of poetry holding a mirror up to the masses. What I first heard as a chorus of “nothing can stop us” was actually the much more sinister drumbeat of “nothing has substance”. And once again, I am floored. Cancel that phone call to Ms. Perry.
So buy this record. Buy it because Tyson is a heckuva nice guy who deserves every ounce of fame he achieves. Buy it because you want to choose smart instead of safe. Buy it because not a lot of people are making music like this anymore. Buy it because of the details. The sigh. The handclap. The perfect pause. The language. The words. The uncontrived oddity. The heart.
Buy it because we need more music like this in our world.
(Review by Lisa Matson)
Tomorrow in Progress will be released on May 20th
You can order the album online at www.tysonmeade.com