There was a recent Noisey article that made a statement of the bleeding obvious that people in bands, even fairly popular ones, have day jobs – crazy to think that the bloke from multi-million selling, Wembley Arena-headlining band Palm Reader has to have a 9-5 to pay his way, right?! However, what’s striking about Tom George, a.k.a. The Lion And The Wolf, is that he recently quit his job to go full-time, touring up and down the country and in further-flung locations, making sleeping on floors and playing music to people his life. Such dedication to his art is admirable (playing 100 shows so far in 2014 is no mean feat), which can be heard throughout the course of his debut album ‘Symptoms’, a dedication to compliment his gentle and charming live show and ensure the name of TLATW stays in the mind long after he’s gone to the next town.
Some albums are perfect for the situation you absorb them in; as I lie in bed after perhaps one or two too many beers the previous night on a lazy Sunday morning, TLATW’s hushed tones prove to be a wonderful medicine. For someone who self-confessedly trades in “sad jams”, this album starts brightly and revels in the delights that studio production can bring, making full usage of a wide range of instrumentation. For example, I’m sure many people who have seen TLATW before would not expect old favourites ‘Hand of Applause’ and the eponymous number ‘The Lion And The Wolf’ to have been augmented by a sitar, yet here it is in all its glory. ‘Symptoms’ certainly benefits from being able to add elements to Tom’s one-man-and-a-guitar live show, especially on songs such as the titular track, the distorted drums at the end giving an air of Bon Iver’s widely acclaimed self-titled effort.
However, for all of its enamouring attributes, ‘Symptoms" is not perfect; at thirteen tracks in length it rather overstretches itself. One can appreciate the need to provide value for money when a sale of a CD can mean the difference between dinner or no dinner on the road, but songs like ‘Tangled Tape’ and ‘Curtain Call’ feel like filler, dragging down the overall quality level raised by songs like the heart-wrenching ‘Ghosts On Trinity’ and stall-setting opener ‘Bandages’. Minor gripes aside though, this is a highly accomplished effort from a man involved in many a musical project over the years, his voice sounding its best than anything previously, songs like the gorgeous ‘Perfect Threes’ and ‘November Saints’ providing a legitimate homegrown alternative to a certain bloke who used to be in a post-hardcore band who’s now making music with a popstar named after a colour. Not obvious who I’m talking about there. Nope, not at all.
The major problem facing The Lion And The Wolf is how to stand out amongst a huge field of acoustic-toting singer-songwriters – why should you buy this rather than all of his competitors? Well, it’s certainly a more mature and considered effort than the “songs about drinking” fayre touted by many; while the topics covered on ‘Symptoms’ occasionally send the dial wild on the melancho-meter, such as ‘The Hole That It Leaves’ concerning his sister’s friend’s death whilst he was holidaying halfway across the world, but the record is not steeped in misery; instead, it provides a life-affirming recollection of his experiences. 2015 is set to be a bigger year than ever before for TLATW, as the relentless tour schedule continues well into the new year, and ‘Symptoms’ is a worthy investment to funding his travails. As the nights draw in, this is the perfect album to greet chilly winter mornings or miserable wet evenings, acting like the musical equivalent of a comforting mug of Horlicks. Now that’s something you just can’t turn down, is it?
‘Symptoms’ by The Lion And The Wolf is released on 24th November on Courage and Stone Records.
Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)