Crystal Thomas and the Flowers of Evil
This is the debut CD from Crystal Thomas, a young face who’s gathered some old hands around her – names such as Matt Walker, Clare Moore, Dan Brodie and Conway Savage are just the top end of a roll call heavy with talent.
As you might expect given the degree of Walker’s involvement – he produced it, in his studio, as well as playing several instruments on it – the music is mostly a rootsy blend. Not at all unpleasant, though at some stages I’d prefer to hear a harder edge. Thomas’ bio and her lyrics like to hint at a bit of a checkered history. And while there’s a degree of world weariness here, there’s no manufactured sleaze in evidence.
She manages to shift some personal goalposts by taking a few different stylistic approaches to her songs, but over the course of the album it all sounds like a natural exploration of ideas, not just willful showing off.
This means you get things ranging from the semi-spoken ‘Tom Foolery’ – a poetic remembrance about the late Ian Rilen and the loose boozy crowd that he moved in – to the gentle lament of ‘Madhouse’ and the downbeat piano-based ‘No Vacancy’; all in the space of the first three songs.
‘No Vacancy’ is a duet with the aforementioned Mr Savage, by the way, which manages to sound heartfelt, knowing and sexy as hell all at once. Not bad going for something that clocks in at a scant two-and-a-quarter minutes. And any song called something as innocuous-sounding as ‘Pretty Pink Clouds’ shouldn’t be allowed to have such unsettling lyrics.
It’s possible to catch the odd sonic glimpse of Patti Smith in some of the vocals but overall she’s managed to pull off a very distinctive and complex effort.