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Tono and the Finance Company

Up Here For Dancing

[Self-released; 2012]

By ; July 30, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Taking inspiration from the album’s cover image, I decided to listen to Up Here For Dancing for the first time whilst on an airplane. This turned out to be a mistake. Flushes of nineties power chords and nifty little indie-dance sessions failed to protrude above the hum of the plane’s engine, and when my ears popped, things only got worse. That’s what you get for listening to something on an airplane for the first time. I’ll stick to just reading a book next time.

In a quieter environment (away from stewards talking over the tannoy and any Turbofan engines) Up Here For Dancing sounds better – but it doesn’t sound great. While there are moments to enjoy, the production lacks that spark to set it apart from any other offering to the indie-pop world. Being a self-released album, though, it seems petty to complain about such things, and the album might be all the better for not having any distracting sonic details. Lead singer Anthonie Tonnon is someone who likes to present as much detail as he can in his lyrics, and as consequence overstuffs his songs. Opening track “Multiple Lives” is a perfectly likeable walk through indie suburbia, complete with a swish little three-chord trick and gently infectious melody in the chorus, but during the verses Tonnon is wandering about aimlessly; he’s got plenty to say (and some lines from the song are enjoyably quotable), but at the same time he sounds like he’s saying nothing at all.

He’s at his best when he’s clear about his subject matter: on “Timing” he realises the lasting power of his relationships lies not in attraction, but how recently his partner broke up with their ex and whether they still secretly pine after them; “Marion Bates Realty” is a scathing attack on a real estate agent who kicked him out of his house, complete with a sarcastic chorus that goes “Marion it must be great to be a real estate agent”(it almost sound like it’s sung in italics); and on “Twenty-Three” he mourns his age, wishing he could be older and accomplished, or be young again, and have an excuse for his recklessness. And these songs are accompanied by a good musical backing too, going from neat guitar riffs and likeable vocal melodies (“Timing”), to light background flourishes (“Twenty-Three”).

Elsewhere Tonnon likes to get in the heads of invented characters. On “Up Here For Thinking, Down There For Dancing” he’s a retired and rich father disappointed by his son, while on “Susan” he’s a girl who has recently been cheated on and been made to feel like the guilty party. And this would be an interesting spin on the usual kind of social commentary you might expect from a top-button, skinny jean-wearing outfit to offer were it not for the fact that Tonnon’s characters are tedious and unlikeable. When the retried father pipes up that he earns three times more than you, the listener feels like their being talked down to, while “Susan” is a pointless person to care about as Tonnon admits from the start that she’s not real. “Up Here For Thinking” redeems itself musically, with bursts of Hammond organ, handclaps, and a joyful one-word coda, whereas “Susan” leaves much to be desired.

While Tonnon’s songs are tightly constructed, the have a habit of winding themselves into awkward places. In a way this makes the releases at the end all the more enjoyable (“With A Point”) but combined with his habit of including plenty of detail, there’s often a simple desire for him to skip over a few observations and get to the good part.

It can be hard to read Tonnon, too. His blank-stare baritone is a few notches away from being annoyingly whiny, but also a good few more from being anywhere near as charming as Jens Lekman. And at times he sounds like’s he’s teetering on desperate for your attention while other times he sounds completely unfussed about how involved you are. This combined with all the (often irrelevant) details he puts into his lyrics, it can sound like he doesn’t really know what he wants to say exactly. Much like the cover art depicts, he’s caught somewhere between an excited first-time flyer looking out on the world below and an unbothered dead-eyed figure listening to someone else’s nonsensical drawl. “Oh, come on be honest,” he coolly pleads on “Timing”, which it’s unsure to tell if he himself really wants to be. If he’s not going to be veracious then he could at least do himself (and the listener) the service of deciding which character he wants to be.


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