Release Date: May 6, 2016
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
There is a terrible sadness at the heart of the first solo record by Thomas Cohen, formerly of London art rockers SCUM. It was written over four years, and charts a range of life experiences, but it is unavoidably the songs about the death of Cohen’s wife, Peaches Geldof-Cohen, that form the album’s emotional core. The largely acoustic Country Home is especially powerful, addressing the subject with such candour that you feel caught between applauding its courage and looking away.
He revisits that moment on the album’s centrepiece ‘Country Home’, singing, “My love had gone/She’d turned so cold/Why weren’t her eyes/Covered and closed”, over maudlin guitar. After a bracing crescendo, it fades with three repetitions of “You couldn’t make it through”. Cohen sounds isolated and desperately sad. Bombarded by synths that recall Bowie’s ‘Low’, ‘Mother Mary’ is similar, with Cohen grasping for “The part of me that is still in love with you”.
Some time ago, Thomas Cohen was the frontman of serrated post-punkers SCUM. He left the band intending to go solo, but then the unthinkable happened when his wife, Peaches Geldof, died. His eventual solo debut, Bloom Forever, details his grief in sometimes gnawingly open-wound detail. But it’s also the sound of a 25-year-old channelling that turmoil into a new musical identity.
Few records have stayed with me in the way that S.C.U.M's first and only LP, Again Into Eyes, has. Dark, odd, trendy, and fizzing with an almost naive creativity, it was a record that found me at a perfect time; it aligned with my budding interest in synthesizers and motorik rhythms and directed me towards many of my favorite records ever, while itself remaining a prized part of my record collection. When frontman Thomas Cohen's wife Peaches Geldof died suddenly in 2014, it was hard to imagine that we could expect to see that spark again anytime soon.
In spring 2012, Thomas Cohen appeared on the cover of trashy celebrity rag Hello alongside his pregnant fiancée, Peaches Geldof, daughter of the Boomtown Rats frontman and Live Aid founder Bob. Domestic bliss was a lens twist for Geldof, who until then had been a notorious indie socialite—imagine Paris Hilton rewritten by Diablo Cody. And even more so for Cohen: A year earlier, he had been fronting serious post-punk teens S.C.U.M., who were named for Valerie Solanas' manifesto, and cited the likes of avant-garde Japanese band Les Rallizes Dénudés, Pharoah Sanders, and Throbbing Gristle as influences.
The transition from frontman to solo artist can be one even the most headstrong of singers can find difficulty with, but in Bloom Forever former S.C.U.M. leader Thomas Cohen has crafted a debut album that feels like it’s the first in a series of many. S.C.U.M emerged as part of the dark underbelly of bands who crept around the shadows of East London in the late Noughties, where landfill indie was on its last legs and barely able to struggle any further forward.
Love, loss and grief are themes that have fuelled singer-songwriters' inspiration since their very early history. Lovelorn verses and difficult lives have always made great storylines; musicians delving into their inner selves to find something to chew over and then spit out in their songs. In this respect, Thomas Cohen is no exception, forming as they do the main drive behind his solo debut.