Once Tom Schraeder performed at Chicago’s House of Blues as a teen, there was no turning back. On his self-released demo back in 2007, ‘The Door, The Gutter, The Grave’ his skills as a versatile vocalist and sensitive songwriter shone through, but when he caught up with Eddie Vedder two years later, his vision truly crystalized. His single, ‘Patbaby’ landed on ‘Once Lace Now Cotton’ (Township Records, 2010) and garnered accolades from ‘The Deli’ magazine, but Schraeder always finds time to expand his circle. To that end, the band also worked with Chicago hip-hop group Natureal.
Schraeder has been a frequent tour de force at Austin’s SXSW and Lollapalooza. When debuting new material in Chicago, he had the pleasure of joining forces with Mars Williams and Kate Adams. Tom Schraeder and His Ego’s new album ‘Gush’ is a great canvas for his songwriting acumen, gentle vocals and reflective lyrics.
‘Duct Tape Ladder’ boasts industrial ambience; swirling, caustic sound bytes and expressive phrasing. The bittersweetness conjures up thoughts of Badfinger and McCartney, but it goes beyond that—it’s a remarkable confluence of style and sentimentality. It would be an epic even without the standout electric guitar solo.
‘Jungle Gym Jock’ is more than simply alliteration. It’s a rollicking character study. Tom’s vocal range is spot on and the percussion is dynamic.
‘Thrown Back Hair’ is a gorgeous excuse for supreme electric guitar effects, but so is ‘Silence Will Follow’ for that matter. The former ballad is heart tugging and speaks of old-school romance. Think early Rufus Wainwright.
‘Regret in Another Tense’ has an undulating melody and is hauntingly executed. Yet it’s the lyrical content of “Tomorrow We’ll Never Know” which cuts deeply and unapologetically: “Home, I can’t go home alone/We laughed, we sang and danced/Now, a broken marionette/ I never had a chance.”
Don’t let the wistful and enigmatic lyrics of ‘When You Were Young’ distract you from the bright harmonies. ‘Prison of Air’ begins in such a plaintive manner, but builds and builds on the keys. The theme “We’re here to set each other free” is replicated in the unleashed instrumentals.
‘Young Not Rotten’ certainly doesn’t skimp on lush guitar but the closer ‘Chicago, I Love You’ is the real surprise - one of the few songs written about the windy city that’s more a ‘Golden Slumbers’ type lullaby than blues anthem or clichéd show tune. It’s novel and authentic. This is a fine album from a band that shows great promise. ‘Gush’ is precisely what you'll do when you hear it.