by Trystan MacDonald
The most apparent fact that comes to mind when The Mess We Made begins, is that Tomas Doncker is by no means a traditionalist when it comes to his particular blend of soul and blues music. The use of electronic drumbeats, upbeat rhythms, and an above average tempo creates a stark instrumental contrast to Tomas’s politically charged lyrical content. A perfect example of this unusual marriage of tones is the second track, “Church Is Burning Down,” a song that could very easily be two different entities if the vocals and instrumentals were separated from one another. This leads to an awkward question: is the divergence between the tone of the lyrics and that of the instrumentals sabotaging the gravity of Tomas Doncker’s words?
The answer is no. The opening lines to the track, “The Revolution” perfectly utilizes the conflicting tones of the background music to brilliantly emphasis the undertow of irony found within the lyrics. “I’m calling BULLSHIT!!!/While the Revolution’s looking for corporate sponsorship…” simple, effective, and somewhat comedic due to the bubbly use of brass horns. It’s impossible not to be charmed by Tomas for having said, what we’re all thinking, so eloquently.
“The Mess We Made” follows a more traditional blues sound and pacing, deviating from the more unique blending of tones found throughout the album. The same can be said about the following track “Don’t Let Go.” An immensely powerful song (and, in this writer’s opinion, the best on the album) due to the instrumentals finally reflecting Tomas’s powerful words; figuratively knocking the wind out of the listener like all great blues songs do. Following that particular track, the album slides back to its pleasant marriage of upbeat tones and soulful lyrics.
The song “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for” is a slower and burdened cover of the U2 original. Coming after the previous politically inspired tracks on the album, Tomas’s reconstruction of the U2 song generates a whole new weight and understanding when compared to the carefree, almost laissez-faire delivery of Bono’s voice. The fact that Tomas Doncker can take such a notable tune, and rework it in such a way that the song adopts a completely different meaning is exceptional to say the least.