Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Saturday Looks Good To Me

Fred Thomas – Brickwall (Stream)

fred thomas

EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of posts reflects back on some of the best material to be released over the past few weeks. Each post with this heading is a part of this series. After this series has concluded regular coverage will resume.

Last year Fred Thomas released a breathtaking meditation on life, love, and loss in All Are Saved and has been quietly releasing various pieces of music ever since its release. One of those releases was “What Changes When the Costumes Come Off”, which was written specifically for the A Step Forward compilation that marked this site’s 1000th post (and that gesture will have my eternal gratitude).

Now, the acclaimed songwriter returns in earnest with the first look at a fully-formed new record, Charger, by way of lead-off single “Brickwall”. Characteristically wry, lived-in, and wise, “Brickwall” showcases Thomas’ enviable lyrical prowess and skill in composition. Comprised of not much more than a clean guitar tone and anxious vocals, save for what may be the most intense solo in Thomas’ storied discography, “Brickwall” finds the songwriter in rare form.

At every turn, there’s a measure of deep feeling that can be heard even through the rapid-fire barbs that are aimed at just about everyone that surrounds the central character of “Brickwall”. It’s a compelling, fascinating listen and it’s one of the more accessible and immediate songs that Thomas has released. Bold, gripping, and loaded with conviction, and sets a very high standard for Charger. If the rest of the record can live up to this precedent, 2017 will start off on the right foot.

Listen to “Brickwall” below and pre-order Changer here.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Fred Thomas)


No song in 2015 hit me as hard as All Are Saved‘s lead-off track, “Every Song Sung To A Dog“, a devastating eulogy from Fred Thomas that was addressed to the dog that inspired his preceding record, Kuma. That song, a startling highlight from a brilliant record (and a personal pick for one of 2015’s best songs), cuts deeply in a way that feels bravely unapologetic. It’s told with the acute attention to detail that drew me to Thomas in the first place back when he was still making music with Saturday Looks Good To Me, a band that remains fiercely beloved by a small (but thankfully growing) group of people. So much of what Thomas is able to convey in prose is so firmly grounded in (frequently mundane) reality that the angle he takes for his piece here probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Below, Thomas takes on the decision to leave his job to open up creative doors and the ways that decision has been paying dividends on a personal and professional level. Read it all below and remember to never give up on the things you love.


At the end of 2011, I got my first “real job”, the kind with a desk and insurance and a water cooler with beleaguered co-workers standing around it waiting for the weekend. This came well into adulthood and after years of opting for part-time employment at record shops, DJ gigs, service jobs or anything else that could be left with almost no notice when it was time to go on tour for six weeks or skip town to work on a record.

It was an almost by-the-numbers cliché of the struggling musician lifestyle, but I’d been noticing less and less of the people I’d started down that road with sticking it out like I was. The line between chasing the dream and spinning the wheels was always blurry, and this job– as cool of a straight job as one could get, writing record reviews for the longest running internet music database– represented a manageable way out of the uncertainty I’d been living with forever.

At the bar a few nights before I was to start this new 40 hours a week regular gig, I got some skeptical feedback from a friend who was always good for contrary perspectives, but sometimes not far off the mark with his snark. “I don’t know, man. Seems like you’ll be fine sitting around writing about music but after a while you’re just gonna want to be out there making it.”

The next three and a half years were basically a protracted pause in that conversation, ultimately ending with me sighing loudly and replying “Yeah, you’re right.” By the start of 2015 I’d made my place at this corporately-owned little music site, growing accustomed to rush hour, performance reviews and all the other Office Space shit I’d never given a thought to before. I’d also managed to stay remarkably active in the punk world I thought I was leaving behind, playing upwards of 80 shows a year, even if they were mostly local jams and doing more with my tape label and zines than ever.

When I started the job I was excited about slowly disappearing from the culture I’d grown up in, romantically imagining the handful of people who were interested in my music wondering where I’d gone. For a time, I worked on making that self-centered fantasy true, putting out a vibe that playing shows and being part of the music community wasn’t really where I was at anymore. I talked with wide-eyed longing about starting a small welding business and putting all my energy into that.

Regardless, however, of everything I tried to talk myself into, there was always more creative work to do and it was always more important than clocking in on time on Monday morning. Quitting my first “real job” in April of 2015 was as much of an afterthought for me as walking out on numerous dishwashing jobs had been a decade beforehand. I put in my notice after coming home from a tour of the south with Deerhoof that ate up my vacation days and required six different documents approved by a chain of management.

I woke up on my last day sick as hell, having stayed up all night recording a sludge metal band at the studio I’d been moonlighting at. It would have been hilarious to call in sick, but I went in anyway. I was leaving for a month of shows again in a week and needed to use the office copier one last time to make free color copies for the tapes I was bringing on tour.

2015 ended up being one of the most important and intense years of my life, with more changes and personal growth than any time before it. More things in my life moved forward than I could even get into in this space, and almost all of it was helped along by quitting my job to focus once again on making music, art, and the art that is being out in the world talking to other people who are also trying to find a way that feels like their own.

-Fred Thomas

Fred Thomas – Every Song Sung To A Dog (Stream)


Impending; explicit; implicit. These are the three levels of loss that this run’s designed to cover. Two nights ago, we bid adieu to Geronimo!, a band that meant a great deal to this site. It was a difficult goodbye but one that the band had earned- they’d done all they could during their time. This post centers more directly on the subject of death by way of former Saturday Looks Good to Me vocalist Fred Thomas‘ devastating eulogy to Kuma, a dog that Thomas had loved and taken care of in years prior. Eschewing any semblance of esoteric language or sideways glances to deliver a profoundly direct statement on the harsh nature of mortality, Thomas lands one punishing lyrical blow after another, before finally twisting the knife with a question as simple as “Is this it?”.

All of Thomas’ incisive lyrical work is propelled by the bed it dances on; a manic, melancholic tapestry of instruments intent on battling each other into a comfortable coexistence. A line on keys sets the driving melody, which is doubled by the bruising hook of “even with all this ridiculous talking”, while treble-heavy guitars lend the song a gently sorrowful atmosphere. A brass section elevates the song’s mournful qualities further still, even as it threatens to topple itself over; an instrumental mirror of the confusion, sadness, anger, and frustration so present in Thomas’ lyrics. When Thomas finally arrives at the song’s voyeuristic title, it’s tough not to break: the pain in those moments is so direct and real it’s next to impossible to come back to the real world without taking a moment to gather some composure.

As of now, the record that “Every Song Sung To A Dog” is taken from- All Are Saved (due out via Polyvinyl on April 7)- seems to be shaping up into a full-fledged contender for Album of the Year. While “Every Song Sung To A Dog” can easily be added to the greatest animal-driven narrative moments in contemporary pop culture, it’s also easily added into the conversation circling the best songs of the decade. In stripping away all forms of pretense and confronting the death of a loved one by diving into it headfirst, Thomas has created something bravely vulnerable and powerfully moving; this is music to honor by reciprocating its inherent virtues: celebration, respect, and love. Simply put, “Every Song Sung To A Dog” is unforgettable.

Listen to “Every Song Sung To A Dog” below and pre-order All Are Saved from Polyvinyl here.