01. Sleep Shake
02. Reverb island
03. Mr. Bird
04. Catch & Release
05. Hamilton Anxiety Scale
07. Reject Falicon
09. Suspend the Death Watch
10. Armchair Travel
2011 Metal Blade Records
Has there been a "great" solo record –ever? The bargain bin is littered with off-shoot projects from Rock n' Roll Gangster by Fieldy's Dreams and Vince Neil's Exposed, to Chris Cornell's Scream. Never is the singular mind of the one artist better than the collaborative efforts the prior band had previously put forth.
Tommy Rogers is no exception. The Between the Buried and Me frontman indulges in everything you would expect from a lead singer's solo disc, including playing all the instruments himself and changing his name to a more astute moniker. On Pulse, it sounds like he's trying too hard to please everyone, including himself. Giles experiments with too many ideas instead of focusing on a few.
Listening to Pulse you can tell there are three things Tommy loves:
1. The Beatles. From the opening harmonies on "Sleep Shake," Fab Four worship is all over this disc. "Hamilton Anxiety Scale" sounds just like Danger Mouse's Grey Album acoustic re-mixes. Some of the production tricks are right out of George Martin's handbook. In fact, there may be only two things Tommy likes more than Lennon and McCartney.
2. Radiohead. Giles' upper register is delicate, tuneful, and immediately brings to mind some of Thom Yorke's more lamenting tunes. This, plus the electronic flourishes permeating almost every bit of this album is telling of Mr. Giles' influences. "Reverb Island" and "Reject Falicon" are brimming with a virtual rainbow of samples and synths, sounding similar to the less avant-garde work of Yorke and Co.
3. Himself. The singular reason an artist does a solo album (when they still have a band) is to show off their supposedly underused talents. Just like Stewart on MAD TV, Tommy is saying, "Look what I can do!" Sure he wrote, produced, sang, and played every bit of this album, but is this a testament to good musicianship or artistic masturbation? Both, probably.
The couple of heavy moments on the album are "Catch and Release" which is heavy like Nine Inch Nails, not heavy like metal, and "Medic," a brutally badass jam and the only one that sounds like Between the Buried and Me. But the standout track on the record is "Scared," which is just Giles singing in a childlike falsetto accompanied by nothing but an acoustic guitar. The chorus is catchy and it is the one song that sticks in the head for days after you hear it.
Bottom Line: The album could have been called "Thom" Giles - Between the Beatles and Me.