The Thompson troupe makes their collective debut on new album Family, but it’s not all matching jumpers and cheesy lyrics; in fact it pretty damn far from this. People are most likely to know the more famous parental unit, Linda and Richard Thompson. Reaching the peak of their fame in the early 80s – notably right in the middle of their relationship falling apart – they survived a while before Richard went solo, leaving behind all the beautiful music he and his ex-wife created together. Roll on twenty-odd years and somehow the previously warring duo have been convinced by family to create an album, with family, with each member playing their part and dishing out music inspired by age and wisdom.
Son Teddy kicks off the record in fine fashion with Family – a gentle acoustic country track featuring lightly humoured begrudging of being a middle child with famous parents: ‘betwixt and between, Sean Lennon you know what I mean’. The tracks honesty and clever lyrics make it a worthy opener, setting up the family saga to continue throughout the album.
Sister pops up on the equally impressive Careful, this time taking on pop folk which turns into something a young Taylor Swift would be proud of, whereas Right’s toe tapping rhythm sits perfectly on a bed of angsty, jittery country sounds.
So the kids are alright, but what about the parents? Richard and Linda show their years of song writing skills by effortlessly keeping in tone with the essence of family, dispelling nuggets of wisdom, wise words and imagery throughout their time on the record. Bonny Boys is an album highlight, with Linda dishing out advice to her kids in a motherly ballad that strikes a perfect balance between lecturing and humour, whereas Richard’s One Life at a Time shows his ear for music, as it builds around the distinctive vocals with skill and dexterity.
Ending with I Long for the Lonely is a stroke of genius. With its perfect harmonising over simple guitar, it leans on the essence of the album, giving off a homely, sweet and warming listen that will have you picking up the phone and calling your loved ones. It’s a real credit to the family Thompson that a mix of generations is able to create something that doesn’t sound laboured or come off as forced and awkward.
Family is a great album. The kids are finding their paths and invite you in to look forward to the future and all they have to experience. The elders offer up their lifetimes on a plate, giving up guidance in a non-condescending and playful way, which works really well. So turn off the TV, gather the family round the ol’ record player and lose yourself in something beautiful.