Published Sep 03, 2019The frontman of one of Canada's most sneering, volatile hardcore punk bands has made an album of earnest, straight-talking power pop. Drew Thomson has spent the last ten years leading the London, ON-based collective called Single Mothers, a band whose debut album was aptly called Negative Qualities. He has spat lyrics with a snide, patronizing sneer, and with this music he has generally set out to make everyone around him feel either smug or worthless. But his solo project, the Drew Thomson Foundation, is not like that — not at all.
One reason is that Thomson likes singing melodies, and doesn't feel the need to thrash and scream at all times. That's understandable. The other is that at age 33, he has gotten sober after a decade-long descent into alcoholism. While he once half-bragged about getting "Bukowski drunk," he's now clear about being a "diet Coke and lime guy" — and not only that, but one who has also taken a closer look at who he was, who he is and who he wants to be.
Here's an album on which Thomson speaks plainly and sincerely about his newfound sobriety, the death of a loved one, the relationships that last and the ones that don't, and the pursuit of self-improvement and reconcilement. Musically, we're talking pop-rock in that late-'90s style of Third Eye Blind, Gin Blossoms and the Goo Goo Dolls, but with just enough of that punk edge to explain tours with the Dirty Nil and New Swears.
"Stay" and "A Little More Time" are snappy, effective songs that make an impression quickly. On the slower side of things, "Pace Yourself" and "LA Lately" waste no time either, sinking their claws in and keeping their grip. The album's frequently happy-go-lucky demeanour verges on tacky at times ("Phone Ring" and "Centerfold"), but by the time the choruses come around, they make up for it. There are several highlights and almost no duds — only the piano-ballad rework of Single Mothers' "People are Pets," which turns out to be a little less Rufus Wainwright and a little more Barney & Friends.
With a solo debut that's upbeat but still hard on itself, Drew Thomson show he's got a knack for a good hook and the self-awareness to say something meaningful with it. While it may take the edge off his punk persona, it's a positive for the human at the centre of it. (Dine Alone)