Review: Fred Thomas - "Good Times Are Gone Again"

In the new song from the forthcoming Aftering LP, Fred Thomas serves up his usual cringe-core verses resulting in stoically even-tempo’d indie slacker rock that dives headstock first into the deep end of the bummer pool.

“Bad things are happening now,” is the only repeated line in the new Fred Thomas’s new tune “Good Times are Gone Again.” The three-minute song finds Fred again as present-day field preacher (or vegetable garden preacher), wearing a light pink polo shirt, singing truth to invisible figures that let him down.

There is no denying that this song is full of woe. It may not be clear exactly what the precise subject at hand is, but Fred Thomas’ sheer disappointment (“this could be so beautiful, it wouldn’t take a lot”) is no simple gripe; it’s a call to action cut from the same cloth as Linus’ calm explanation to Charlie Brown’s seven-year old haters in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that “[all the pathetic Christmas tree Charlie Brown had picked] needs is a little love.”

The electric piano twinkles in the intro to “Good Times are Gone Again” might be a welcome trigger for aughts-indie heads (see Saturday Looks Good to Me, Fred Thomas’s prolific aughts twee pop outfit). But there’s still crafty sound-fuckery on this song: the intro’s hazy halo soothes until a cool blast of feedback and heavy overdubbed distorted riffs come in, providing the foundation for lyrics that call bullshit in dramatic slow-motion (“You still think you’re the only one who had to fight for what they’ve got”)

The general mood of the song (and of the video, filmed on the beautiful sidewalks of Ann Arbor, Michigan) is like a Todd Haynes California fever dream. The film Safe from 1995, comes to mind. In it, a housewife’s unclassifiable “environmental illness” (she’s allergic to everything) leads her to check herself into an isolated cult-like contamination-free compound in New Mexico. In an interview, Todd says that the film was inspired by the experience of lurking in his car outside his parents’ LA mansion listening to a Sonic Youth cassette.

“Sharp days are wrapping around us,” warns Fred Thomas in a particularly anthemic moment of the song. Throwing light on the phenomenon of “sharp days” in an oblique and poetic song like “Good Times are Gone Again” might not hold a specific message, but it does serves as comfort food for realness-starved ears.


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