There was a time when the likes of The Silver Thread might be committed to the stockade as unrepentant loyalists -- redcoat-harboring counterrevolutionaries, flaunting their barrister wigs and taxed tea like battle flags. (Though in the case of these Pittsburgh music-scene veterans, the wig might be a Stone Roses-style bangs 'n' bowls haircut, the tea laced with LSD.) But in today's environment of post-garage-revival digging in the mod crates, The Silver Thread's neo-scallydelia ("scally," slang for a Brit hooligan, plus psychedelic pop) seems more like an inevitable result than an insurgent holdover.
But a holdover it is: From Suburban Sect's Blur vs. Oasis-era Britpop, through The Silver Thread's first incarnation as a Buzzcocks-heavy, cathartic, poppish punk thing, Tim and brother Todd Thomas have clung to a stable of Union Jack-waving pop, punk and scally acts as sacred. But perhaps never have those influences converged so singularly as on This House Is Clean, the first Silver Thread release since singer and live focal point Jason Fate's departure from the band. The result is a themed mix of acoustic strummers backed by noise-blurred organs, electric rockers forged in the cauldron of post-punk, and swirling psychedelic pop begging for mainstream airplay (which it will likely never receive).
Throughout This House Is Clean, The Silver Thread invokes radio, airwaves, communication through vibrations. "Broadcast," "This is a Test" and "Days": "ghost-like rhythm / plays on the radio" -- This House is indeed one built on a base of musical self-reference; it's music essentially about music. "Every day keeps a shadow of what will never come ... I'll keep a close watch / all of my days, all of my days," Tim Thomas sings on the acoustic strum of "Days." It's as if the Thread stands like Knights Templar, awaiting the return of some musical Holy Grail that will redeem them, yet knowing it isn't to be. But these beautiful quixotic pop knights are ready if it comes, ready with "Broadcast" and "Absolute Zero," sharp stabs of twin-guitar shock. And with "Disengage Your Head" and "A Kick Against You," heavy-lidded psychedelic meanderings in the vein of early Robyn Hitchcock freak jobs.
"Unnecessary" is the kind way to describe "Madrid," a brief acoustic slide-guitar instrumental that ends This House Is Clean; "stockade-worthy" is more apt. And a band so steeped in Brit tunes can be forgiven for accidentally slipping into accent when singing. Hell, The Beatles did it the other way around. But for a group so distinctly a part of Pittsburgh's scene -- its members have played 'round town since 1986, and produced many other groups' recordings -- why not slip into "yinz" rather than "scally"? But overall, this housecleaning represents the right direction for a band that many thought had folded with immense unfulfilled promise last year. The Silver Thread is dead -- long live The Silver Thread!