Record of the Week: The Cool Greenhouse: Sod's Toastie LP

The Cool Greenhouse: Sod’s Toastie 12” (Melodic Records) While I try to keep my writing for the Sorry State newsletter snappy, writing about the new album from the Cool Greenhouse, one of my favorite bands in the world, feels like an appropriate time to surrender to my natural tendency toward verbosity. If you haven’t heard the Cool Greenhouse before, their songs are very witty and lyrically dense, often analyzing the absurdities of today’s world and frequently causing me to literally LOL. Their music covers a wide stylistic swath, but they are followers of the Fall who have absorbed the three Rs, and their emphasis on repetition keeps the focus on the lyrics, which are the star of the show. The Cool Greenhouse is quirky and isn’t for everyone (especially if you don’t have a taste for things that are very British), but if you want to check them out, I encourage you to do so. This album, Sod’s Toastie, is a fine starting point, though their single “Alexa” is my favorite track, and I also rate the Crap Cardboard Pet EP highly. If you’re already a fan of TCG, as I am, the question is: how does Sod’s Toastie stack up against their discography so far? My first impression was that it’s quite dark. While TCG hasn’t shied away from the bleaker corners of reality on their previous releases (see, for instance, “4chan” from their first album), Sod’s Toastie lingers on downer vibes that make me wonder, “Tom, are you OK?” The title track is super depressing (though also hilarious), and “Y.O.L.H.” and “I Lost My Head” are also palpably bleak. After spending some time digesting Sod’s Toastie, though, I hear a lot of variation. “Musicians” and “Get Unjaded” are both musically (if not lyrically) joyous, and “The Next Stage of Destiny” and “The Neoprene Ravine” are so acid-fried that it’s hard to figure out where they fall on the emotional register. Another thing that sticks out about Sod’s Toastie is its mix of home-recorded and full-band tracks. Who knows if this pattern will hold, but so far the Cool Greenhouse’s singles and EPs have been home productions that relied heavily on synths and drum machines, while their first album from 2020 featured a full-band lineup. Sod’s Toastie mixes the two approaches, and it works. I think the first album missed Tom’s home recording style, which has just as much character as his lyrics, but I also think the band has come into their own on Sod’s Toastie. “Get Unjaded” and “The Neoprene Ravine” are brilliant, the band on fire. While there are scores of bands who take inspiration from the Fall, the Cool Greenhouse seems to have cracked the code on how they wrote and arranged songs, sounding like the Fall without sounding like they’re imitating them, if that makes sense. I dare say “Get Unjaded” could hold its own on This Nation’s Saving Grace, and “The Neoprene Ravine” would fit onto Dragnet. While those are the big patterns I noticed on Sod’s Toastie, in my mind, the big picture gets overshadowed by the relentless barrage of memorable moments. For me, those include: the Wizard of Oz moment in “Musicians” when the song transitions from the spare home recording of its first section to the lush, Fela Kuti-inspired full band section; the bit about cello tape that starts “Sod’s Toastie;” when Tom shouts “guitar solo!” in “Get Unjaded” and then launches into a keyboard solo; the backwards guitar effects in “Sod’s Toastie;” the whole of the vinyl-only bonus track “The Next Stage of Destiny,” a surreal drone whose lyrics are a nonsensical string of cliches delivered by the guy who voices movie trailers; the way Tom hangs on the line “too busy sucking on my little green ding dong” in “The Neoprene Ravine;” the end of “Sod’s Toastie,” when the song seems like it’s going to go on forever, but ends abruptly; the following line from “Get Unjaded:” “I think I can still see joy in people / the way you can still see the ghosts of dinosaurs in birds.” Listing these moments makes me realize that, while most of the hardcore and punk I listen to is geared toward creating albums and EPs that carry a stable vibe through multiple tracks, The Cool Greenhouse feeds my love of the song. There are plenty of my favorite records where I couldn’t tell you the titles of the songs, but I don’t have that problem with TCG… every song is its own universe, with a unique central conceit—a raison d'être—and a wealth of details that make it come alive, like a musical version of speculative fiction. In summation, Sod’s Toastie is another brilliant record by a brilliant group. Here’s hoping the Cool Greenhouse follows the Fall’s lead and has a long career with a sprawling discography packed with stunners like Sod’s Toastie.

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