‘Follow The Leader’ as an album is resolutely anarchic. It ranges from ferociously feral bared tooth growling rock and roll, to subtle and sumptuous softer song writing. Yet every track punches with an emotive power and passion for the music that will leave you feeling.
Tom Williams is an incredibly versatile and talented musician that cannot neatly fit into any one box. Instead his music spills and leaks out of the sides blending, blurring, and obscuring the very meaning of genre and why we set up these rigid rules in the first place.
The album is a rallying cry and highly politically charged. It takes marksman aim at the capitalist society at the top while driving a bulldozer through the structural foundations that support the system.
Like the message of the album the music itself casts a dark intangible shadow, shifting shape, growing, and evolving over the duration. Each track is equipped expertly with the weaponry needed to draw blood from its lyrics.
It begins with Petrol Station a not at all subtle attack on the capitalist heart that pumps the dark tar pollution that courses through the bloodstream of the corrupt and sick system. It has this cascading waterfall of drums that just pound relentlessly into the bed of the track, all the while the buzzing guitar and building vocals are whipped into the whitewater of it with a cleansing fervour.
So Naive begins a lot more softly with the jangling of an acoustic guitar. When the drums and bass join in is a beautiful example of the rich and textured soundscape that Williams can build. The track ebbs and flows but all the while still prickles with the electricity and quiet fury introduced in the first.
The third track D’Ya Understand begins with a growling riff that just tears into the speaker with tooth and claw, it’s vicious. The song is filled in with some gorgeous instrumentation from a sexy saxophone and this powerful, primal, primordial drum beat. Lyrically it’s one of my favourite tracks on the album, it keeps that powerful political message but mixes in a little more poetry with the blood and vitriol, as well as lacing the bow with an addictive little choral hook.
With Hurricane Season we are introduced to the softer side of Williams song writing. This track burns with a slightly different energy, the roaring fire that blazed before is allowed to die down to embers. The harmony provided with the female vocals in the chorus creates this spectral quality that beautifully mingles into the hazy smoke of both the lyrics and the shift of mood. At its core it’s a more grounded folk sound with much more focus on narrative, storytelling, and emotive vocal work to provide bedrock to the soaring words.
The title track Follow The Leader takes a bit of a detour from the sounds that came before with a more electronic sound. It sounds a lot like some of my favourite experimental indie artists like Tom Vek, who stray so far off the beaten track they leave a desire path open behind them for others to follow suit. Razor sharp lyricism with an addictive beat and groove, it has a punk heart with indie pop clothing.
Heads Down begins with this filthy roaring riff that just burrows itself into your skin. It would be easy to assume it was going to continue on that path diving deeper and deeper into that dark and intoxicating sound. Instead it veers a little left of that, with a prog rock climax filled with tight and intricate instrumentation alongside resonant falsetto crooning and a whirling explosive force that rockets the track into intergalactic territory.
Delivering on the rock’n’roll promised in the intro of the song before Kings and Queens is a riff fest with a head banging rhythm and shout a long chorus. The lyrics have a tongue in cheek wit and sardonic charm that matches well with the punk tones in the guitars.
Another delicious drum beat that draws you in to be swept away on the swirling keys of the piano. Little Did We Know is a bittersweet song that charts the end of a marriage, it’s another example of the amazing range and narrative skill Tom Williams posseses as a songwriter.
Nothing Without You follows on in the same vein cut open in the last song. It charts the breakdown of a relationship. It has more of a chorus and classic song structure than the last, with a slow build, strong emotive vocals, and heart wrenchingly honest and open lyricism.
The final song is Hard Year and it is a soft and beautiful close to the album filled with rich instrumentation and a sense of closure.
With streaming platforms being the oozing rot clogging the veins of the music industry, too many artists have lost the craft, expertise, production, and care put into crafting an album to be digested as a work of art in itself. Tom Williams has not.
The album tackles the torturing and bleak society we live in and the more personal connections that get snapped under all the pressures. The progression from track to track is masterful and it tells a story that stitches it all together with a beautifully poignant prick from the sewing needle that draws blood in the final three songs.
You can listen to the album and support the work over at Tom’s Bandcamp which we would highly recommend.
It is also obviously available on another popular streaming platform but we don’t promote that one and unless you have the “rich enough to be spared the ads” version it will force shuffle the tracks which will ruin the narrative, flow, and immersion. Don’t Follow The Leader there, boycott that platform forever.
Words by Matt Miles