It’s been quite a while since the Michigan-born Fred Thomas-led band Saturday Looks Good To Me’s last recorded new material dating back to their 2004 album Every Night. It shouldn’t be surprising since the all the band does is constantly tour. When would the band ever have time to sit in a studio when they spend most of their days on a bus?
With an ever eager cast of contributors around songwriter and lead vocalist Thomas, Saturday Looks Good To Me’s music evolves with each subsequent album. All Your Summer Songs was filled with playful summer pop, while Every Night had a more rebellious pop rock sound. On Fill Up The Room, SLGTM maintains that '60s beach pop sound but mixes it with more mature tones.
Part of it might be that Thomas himself sings most of the tracks, with Bettie Marie Barnes doing solo in the somewhat out-of-place “Hands In The Snow” which is unfortunately sandwiched in-between the classic SLGTM boardwalk sugar pop “Edison Girls” and the also classic SLGTM dreary minimalist “Come With Your Arms.” It’s strange listening to the album with Thomas contributing much of the vocal-duties. The pop tunes always seemed bubblier coming from the female voices of Tara Jane O’Neil, Ko Melina, and Karla Schickele.
As much as I want to make Brian Wilson comparisons, it just wouldn’t do Thomas any justice considering how well (despite his less-than-stellar, although nowhere near a Bob Dylan-esque voice) he’s able to hit the right notes when he needs to. Thomas conveys the ideal amount of teenage ignorance and teenage innocence in “Make A Plan” that even though it might seem like the end of the world to Jenny, Thomas knows it’ll really pass: “And you call me on the telephone / It was uncomfortable / Singing before seven and you’re crying by eleven / So the story goes.”
There’s a hearty mix of sounds and tempos from retro 60’s doo wop (“Apple”) to traditional SLGTM melodies (“The Americans”) to oldies California pop rock (“When I Lose My Eyes”) to pseudo-Irish folk (“Whitey Hands”). Fill Up The Room is not only proof of Thomas’ comprehensive musical stylings, but also his ability to work with so many different musicians to create something so very refreshing.