Since the release of Songs of Pain and Leisure in 2011, Tom Walsh has undergone both a creative and spiritual transformation. The victim of a debilitating illness, Walsh reluctantly took a break from the world of music, during which he became interested in the deeper questions that music can pose, such as spirituality. Now, three years after returning to music, he delivers an album that is multifaceted in style, mood and meaning.
Fruitless Research provides listeners with delicious auditory delights. Exhibiting his fresh intricate style, the album also illustrates the collaborative effort of Yuuki Matthews, who is best known for his work with the Shins and Crystal Skulls.
Comprised of ten tracks, all exploring a complexity of sounds and ideas, this album reveals the musical reawakening of Walsh in a soulful and lyrical way. All die-hard fans and novice listeners of Tom Walsh alike will find themselves unable to resist the essence of escapism that the album achieves.
Fruitless Research is transformative throughout each song, beginning with the synth-heavy track ‘Public Radio’, which immediately launches the listener in to the futuristic motif of the album. Reminiscent of the vocal style of Daft Punk, the synthesised voice in the opening song contrasts the track to the heavily instrumental format of Songs of Pain and Leisure. Even from the beginning of his latest album, Walsh is exploring various themes with a more modern, edgy style, carrying this theme in different styles through each song.
Whilst the tone of the album is notably different to that of his previous work, the themes explored by Walsh in his previous albums, such as self-exploration and personal development, are just as prevalent in Fruitless Research. The most significant example of Walsh’s search for spiritual meaning in the album is demonstrated in ‘Body/Mind’, where Walsh recounts the tribulations of adolescence. Skilfully, Walsh encapsulates the struggle of growing older in the simple, yet powerful line: “The world will surely shock you / but you’re not on trial”. Against a complex background of synth and electronic sound effects, these proverbial lyrics hold significance, and affirm a spiritual subtext to the album.
Notably, the real gem of the album is ‘Shallow Water’, in which Walsh revisits his former transient style again, whilst establishing a more modern vibe at the same time. Featuring his soft vocals, it provides a pleasant return to the artist’s previous acoustic style; additionally, this can also be detected in the reflective track ‘Monterray’.
In contrast to the soothing tracks on the album, a darker aspect of self-discovery manifests in more sombre pieces such as ‘Counting Cards’ and ‘Fundamental Ground’. Both of these songs illuminate Walsh’s ability to express an array of emotions, highlighting his ability to examine difficult themes.
Although the album contains a variety of moods, it also features tracks that Walsh has clearly created to simply evoke a sense of fun in his listeners. Significantly, the tracks ‘Chocolate Milk’, ‘The Glow’ and ‘The Bright Void’ all hold the chance for listeners to escape in to Walsh’s imaginative world. An artist approaching a new style is, more often than not, pursuing the desire to attract new fans. Tom Walsh has more than enough potential to achieve such an objective in Fruitless Research, whilst also maintaining his current fan base.
Providing an explorative journey of the soul for all music tastes, it is an exceptional excursion from the musical ordinary. Well Done, Tom Walsh.