Well they say that we might all have dirty glasses
Like they said Trojan horse would be forgotten
But we represent a different platform
Dispossessed pinko middle classes
Who have very dirty glasses
The Cool Greenhouse are no hothouse flowers, but they’re certainly about to hurl a few stones with their self-titled debut LP. Blissfully instinctive, The Cool Greenhouse deftly embodies the agitation of a relentless internal monologue with the maddening monotony of a repetitive earworm….let’s just call a spade a spade. This is The Cool Greenhouse Effect.
The voice and mastermind behind the band, the delightfully monikered Tom Greenhouse, explodes on the scene with a spectacularly poetic, post-punk, psychedelic narration style. Inspired by magazine articles and conversations, each song in the collection delights in drolly digging at the gamin classes, scoffing at the stupidity of society, and popping punches at female harassment. In short, Tom Greenhouse is a brilliantly witty lyricist, and The Cool Greenhouse is about to be your next favourite band if you are a fan of the minimalist stylings of Tom Vek, spilling the wine with Eric Burdon/War, the bizarre verbal journeys of early Beck, and the wordplay of Patti Smith. Patti herself is namechecked in 2019’s Pets: “I hear Patti Smith’s favourite pet…is an earring.”
“A lot of punk is on the nose like “fuck the Tories” but I’m not that hardcore,” says Greenhouse. “Humour is good for talking about serious things without getting too sentimental.”
Greenhouse’s proclivity for penning poetry struck early. “At school I wrote a story about a whale that fell in love with a submarine and tried to have sex with it which almost caused a serious nuclear meltdown; it won a prize. As a teenager I thought I was Arthur Rimbaud so I moved to Paris and wrote terrible poetry.” Ah, the folly of youth!
Down and out in Paris (and later, in London), Greenhouse found his finances in dire straits, so the fledgling poet fled to the sticks of Norwich, England. Sitting in his garden, the muse stuck and Greenhouse was determined to turn scripture into song with a friend’s tape recorder. He then set to writing the album between cranking out clickbait articles for his bread and butter. Greenhouse then contacted Graham Lambkin (The Shadow Ring) asking whether the whole effort was worth the bother. “He sent a really nice reply. He probably doesn’t remember, but it spurred me on.”
From there, Greenhouse took to the live circuit, but his solo backing track performances needed a fuller sound and turned to the talent of guitarist Tom O Driscoll, bassist Thom Mason, drummer/percussionist Kevin Barthelemy and Merlin Nova on keys and synths, harmonium, melodica, violin and backing vocals. The result was so impressive they got signed by Melodic. “Those guys are crazy,” says Greenhouse.
“I wanted to hear repetitive music that wasn’t pretentious,” Greenhouse says of his personal agenda to inject pop sentimentality into the rock’n’roll textbook. “The mission was to make long, repetitive pop music that wasn’t boring. I soon realised I could do that through focusing on the lyrics.” The result is a dizzying onslaught of languidly-delivered verbiage that demands your attention and slices through the bullshit with rapier-sharp wit.
Producer, sound engineer and mixer Phil Booth (Sleaford Mods, Jake Bugg) discovered the 7″ masterpiece and invited the group to his JT Soar studio in Nottingham. The old potato-packing warehouse offered an idiosyncratic working method for the band, which recorded the album over 7 days between kipping on studio couches, 4am whiskey-soaked sessions, and Mario Kart ’64 on demand. “There were weird little synchronistic miracles,” says Greenhouse: “discussing a song then seeing its title on a shop window, finding things in pubs straight out of our songs… these zapped me onto some sort of Jungian plane where I didn’t need sleep and knew just what to do.” After sculpting the final cuts, the ambitious effort was mastered by Mikey Young (Bodega, Amyl and the Sniffers). “We added a tympani and clarinet, but ended up taking it all off again.” One hopes they’re revived in another incarnation.
The efforts paid off: The Cool Greenhouse caught the attention of Henry Rollins, who declared them as “my new favourite post-everything existential music happening. Hooray!”
Praise from Sir Henry is praise indeed. Give this gem a spin.