Flashlight O- The Truman Sho 8.0
Every time you’ll ever read about a local music scene, there’s always a certain type of band that never quite makes it. They’re the local legends, the one who’s every song can be recited from memory by a couple dozen local fans. When I was a younger lad, I thought that music scenes were some magical occurrence that could never happen in the suburbs of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Unfortunately, at that time, there was a bustling scene that I wasn’t quite old enough to be aware of at the time. Real Estate has made Ridgewood, New Jersey a nationally known source of music, taking bands like Big Troubles and Family Portrait along for the ride. This was all before I got to high school, so by the time I did get there, there was a void where Real Estate’s shadows lay.
Into that void stepped a humble quartet of impossibly nice guys who called themselves Spook Houses. I can’t really overstate the impact Spook Houses had on the way I looked at music. Although Titus Andronicus had already showed me that there were great bands from my neck of the woods, Spook Houses managed to make music something it never had been to me before, truly personal. Sure I had related to all sorts of music before then, but suddenly I could hear music, remarkable music at that, by guys who had walked the same streets as me, done the same after-school activities and taken the same classes. As a fifteen year-old, just that concept was unbelievable.
Spook Houses were fronted by two singer/songwriter/guitarists, Dave Benton (now of the equally great LVL UP) and Colin Alexander, who now records under the name Flashlight O. Alexander’s contributions to Spook Houses were always fantastic. Classics like “Home” and “Walking At Night” perfectly embodied an aimless late summer night in Ridgewood, a sort of night that I’ve come to understand more and more as I’ve gotten older. Sadly, Spook Houses seem to have run their course, but luckily for us, both frontmen have continued making music.
The Truman Sho definitely falls under the “bedroom pop” genre, but lacks its more unfortunate trappings. Its evocative without being too sentimental, sweet and vulnerable without being saccharine. It doesn’t stay in one simple sonic direction, but doesn’t change itself so often that it sounds like a half-baked scatterplot. Simply put, Alexander knows what he’s doing. Songs like “Earth Mantle” and “Happy Baby Pose” are complex enough to keep you interested through multiple listens, but have melodies that could work as campfire songs. Even when an outlier, like the noise-pop intro of “Thanksgiving”, appears, it sounds natural and unforced.
Although Alexander is now located in Baltimore, a place I don’t really know much about except for the Ravens and The Wire, its still easy for me, or any other college kid stuck back in his suburban dwelling for the summer, to connect to The Truman Sho. His songs have that same personable quality, that same sense of subtle nostalgia. Its like watching an old family video, or looking through a filter at an aging photo. Yeah I know how cliche that all is, but when I think about it, few songwriters I’ve heard have been able to capture that feeling in song better than this guy. Even though Spook Houses seem to have petered out, this record and the material from LVL UP will do just fine for me.