While it may not bode well for the music industry at large, lockdown has at least brought opportunities for moments of inspired individual creativity.
Among slightly higher profile albums from Taylor Swift and Charli XCX made under Covid restrictions, comes the debut solo Timo Tierney, better known as singer and guitarist of Tea Street Band.
“I was getting up really early about 5am and my mind was itching to get busy on something,” says Tierney of the impetus behind the album’s creation, “I have a Mac and had no idea how to use it. I wanted to start using Garageband as I have always liked recording, but not really into sitting down and writing songs.”
Recorded in his living room in Liverpool, with no amps or fancy mics, he says this was his slant on ‘proper dance music’, done the easiest way with no cost and completed alone.”
‘Proper’ dance music or not, fans of Tea Street Band will definitely recognise certain elements from the band’s distinctive indie/dance sound manifesting themselves here too.
For a start, there’s a similarly euphoric feel to Okiro – the name being a common African surname that Tierney picked because it means ‘baby born with fat cheeks’ – even when it’s housed in this generally more instrumental setting. The sound of the guitar has not been banished either. It’s evidence in processed, backwards-masked Hendrix-style shards of sound n opening track ‘Lockdown’ and surfaces throughout, perhaps most notably on ‘FMWH’, playing off echoes of early Orbital and evoking memories of sun-drenched festival dancing.
There is a definite theme of nostalgia at play here too, a nod to the original simple thrills of rave and simultaneously, Tierney’s youth knocking around Liverpool picking up flyers from the city’s legendary 3Beat Records. The title ‘City Pets’, in fact, is a reference to a pet shop that every kid in Liverpool would visit to look at “parrots and hamsters” at the time, a title that seemed relevant with the city’s inhabitants now locked up (or down).
Tierney does provide vocals on the occasional moment as well. The single ‘Deep Love’ is a highlight, a melancholic, lilting song with Timo’s voice taking on a little of the sonorous sadness of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis.
‘Newse’, on the other hand, feels closer to the deadpan delivery of Bernard Sumner, especially when it was part of his guitar/dance hybrid project with Johnny Marr, Electronic. Many of the instrumental tracks have an equally lyrical – if not literally, but metaphorically – quality though. This reviewer’s favourite is probably ‘Licking My Lip’, which is maybe simpler in construction to some here but with its guitar and keyboard lines entwining themselves around each other effortlessly, it achieves proper emotional pull.
Anyone can make music during lockdown, but what Tierney has done here, creating something new and full of its own character that will nevertheless appeal to fans of his main project, is a much bigger ask. One that he pulls off on ‘City Pets’ with plenty of style.