It’s easy to get bored on holiday. You don’t have all your daily routine to keep you preoccupied. But when most of us get a bit bored when we’re away, we reach for a paperback, or head to the bar. Not Thomas White though. When he was bored on holiday in Egypt (before last year’s Arab Spring), he knocked up a whole new album, just using his guitar, his laptop and the the microphone of his pocket videocamera. He wasn’t even going to release it until he was persuaded by friends that he’d be a fool if he didn’t.
Yalla! is Thomas White’s third solo album, on top of those he’s made with Electric Soft Parade and Brakes (and numerous guest spots with others), and it quite possibly his most personal and accomplished work to date.
The album fades in quietly, opening with All The Fallen Leaves. Nearly a minute passes before the first chord is played. The lyrics tell of a aching for home – Brighton – despite the fact that “the sun beats down on desert ground”, and that home is “cold, wet and brown”. An acoustic guitar plucks away at simple chords, and a haunting close harmony joins in for some of the repeated lyrics which aren’t quite a chorus.
I’ll See Her Again and That Heavy Sunshine Sound are a bit more upbeat, but the undercurrent of yearning is still there – not for Brighton this time, but for a woman. The latter is definitely one of my highlights of the album, with the near perfect stanza “I am a boy / with a crush on a girl / who is out of my league / and is certainly out of this world”, which encapsulates exactly how I felt far too often in my early twenties.
The album continues in it’s psychedelic folk theme – Nick Drake with harmonies by the Beach Boys, with Norwegian Wood by the Beatles playing on the radio in the next room. For a more recent comparison, it occupies the same musical space as Balcony Times, the album put out at the end of last year by Milk & Biscuits (which incidentally, Thomas played on).
The best is saved until last. Album closer The English Sargasso lasts for nearly six and a half minutes, and by this point, Thomas is homesick for his friends and the pubs of Brighton – “We’ll hit the Dorset, and maybe The Hand, and down to Fitzherberts and the Globe after that”. While the last piece clocks in over five minutes, it doesn’t drag, but feels unhurried, moving along at a different, slower pace. The kind of pace that things move at when you’re on holiday with absolutely nothing to do – an incredibly clever trick to nail.
If this is what happens when Mr White goes on holiday, I can’t wait to hear the results of his next trip.
Yalla! by Thomas White is released on Bleeding Heart Recordings on 19th March 2012. The first 50 copies – available through Resident Records in Brighton and Rough Trade in London – come with a bonus five track cd, and there will be a free instore gig at Resident at 6pm on 19th March, where the album will be available for £6.99.