Words: James Frostick
Tom Ridgewell – member of Naarm/Melbourne underground luminaries Constant Mongrel, Woollen Kits and Calamari Girls – is stepping away from a band framework to create under his solo moniker TB Ridge As The Director. In November TB Ridge will be dropping a five-track EP via Anti Fade Records that doubles as a love letter to good old-fashioned rock’n’roll. Lead single ‘Rock N Roll Heart’ showcases a playful subversion of stylistic hallmarks that have been imbued with Tom’s own charismatic musical essence.
The rock’n’roll band bro is an oft-lampooned musical figure these days – one perceived by many as an antiquated relic of a long-gone musical age when guitars reigned supreme. Guitars aren’t obsolete, far from it – but the guitar-god machismo and the personalities that pioneered the rock genre in its heyday have largely been relegated to classic radio and throwback playlists. Tom Ridgewell is keeping the rock’n’roll flame alive, though – his new solo project TB Ridge As The Director finds the musician joyously relishing the chance to dip into the genre’s deep well of sound and fire off a few rocking licks of his own. Tom’s no stranger to rock or rock-adjacent music – Constant Mongrel nudged the boundaries of hectic and frenzied post-punk, while Woollen Kits seemed indebted to a few progenitors of the indie- and garage-rock paradigm. As TB Ridge, Tom is indulging his predilection for the unadulterated sound of yesteryear (press material concedes some stylistic references could be traced to mid-career Lou Reed), but isn’t resorting to pastiche of his inspirations, rather melding tone and attitude with his own quirky sensibilities.
The foundation of the track is Tom’s scratchy and straightforward guitar work – he whips between fuzzy purr, wiry licks and cruising chug, all performed with a wide stance. ‘Rock N Roll Heart’ builds up layers of repeated sound and loops, allowing Tom to take his guitar for a walk when we sees fit. The track’s percussive underlay is synthetic, which is funny considering the lyrics revolve around Tom’s desire to play straightforward rock without the use of drum machines or synths. This tongue-in-cheek posturing is probably what I love most about the track – a playful prod at the purists who ardently stand by what they know. On ‘Rock N Roll Heart’ Tom walks a fine line between earnest tribute and taking the piss. Though he risks coming across as a sarcastic caricatured embodiment of the genre he loves, no one but a true rock’n’roll fan could pull off an interpretation as slick as this. There’s some laughs at the genre’s expense, sure – but Tom jokes because he cares. Classic rock might be a guilty pleasure to some, but there’s nothing guilty about the music of TB Ridge As The Director. Listen here: