Thomas Charlie Pedersen is a Danish singer/songwriter who performs in a band called Vinyl Floor with his brother Daniel. As with many artists, Pedersen used the Covid lockdown of 2021 to double down on creative exploration. Pedersen wrote so many demos for his group that he decided to record the remaining tracks as a solo folk project called Employees Must Wash Hands.
Pedersen feels this is “a quieter and somewhat more introverted and reflective album than my previous solo efforts, but also showcasing a more arranged and ‘band-like’ feel.” Thematically these songs deal with “Man’s relationship with God and God’s relationship with Man. Who has abandoned who? Is there any faith or spirituality left? They also deal with isolation, self-doubt and all of the other stuff on my mind during the strange time that was the Covid lockdown.”
Pedersen wrote all the songs on the album and played the majority of the instruments while his brother Daniel contributed additional vocals and instruments, along with producing and mixing in Copenhagen. Mastering was by Audio Bay Mastering in Michigan, USA.
While I was expecting a folky-sounding album based on acoustic guitar, Pedersen surprised me with songs that feel like British Invasion classics, with a fully produced sound. For example, the opening track “Yesterdays And Silly Ways” reminds me very much of The Move, which was the group Jeff Lynne headed before ELO. The chord sequence and lead vocals both suggest Lynne at his early best. Vocal harmonies, piano and drums predominate here. The synth horns in the middle recall The Beatles refracted through The Rutles.
“Oh, Whatever” is an example of a seemingly boring title making for a delightful hook-laden folk tune. The vocals here are especially wonderful, with rich harmonies bringing back memories of Peter and Gordon, Herman’s Hermits, etc. Besides drums, nothing here gets as much attention as the vocal tracks. “Slow Passage” has an electric guitar riff worthy of Elvis or Del Shannon, while the overall track feels like a slower version of the Beatles’ take on “Besame Mucho.” The guitars are melancholic and full of yearning.
“Rains On Saturn” is a clever variation on the term “Rings of Saturn” and has the drama of a Broadway show tune, bathed in retro space sound effects. I wasn’t expecting to be reminded of Warren Zevon, especially on a “space tune,” but Zevon could get classically dramatic with the best of them. The vocals here are so amazingly varied it’s hard to believe it’s just two young men at the mics. “Coarse Rasp Of Yore” gets to the picked, folky acoustic guitars I’ve been expecting, a bit in the Lennon-White Album tradition.
“Mass In D Minor” slows down almost to a dirge, with a simple beat and low strummed electric guitar. It’s a serious affair but I found a bit of humor in the gravity of the digital horns in the middle section. “Fiddler & The Travesty” is the longest song at almost four minutes, where Pedersen retakes the narrator’s perch while accompanying himself on piano, using mostly lower, deeper chords. The ersatz orchestra is especially rich here, approaching ELO majesty.
“You Can’t Have It Both Ways” features beautifully picked electric guitars, understated synth pads and a terrific vocal arrangement. I’m running out of British Invasion bands to compare these guys to but on this song I thought of the Small Faces or even early Bee Gees. “Tremble And Reel” returns to the piano, and it’s clear now that these guys pick a lead instrument before arranging their material. Pedersen’s keyboard playing is a wonder in itself, as this short song stands almost completely on his vocals and keys.
“Organ Prayer (in E flat)” shows both Pedersen’s vaguely spiritual side paired with his obvious sense of humor. The main instrument is indeed a churchly organ, with lyrics like: “Damn your snake eyes / Damn your multitudes / Damn your disguise… tell your lame friends to go screw themselves.” The combination of reverent musical tones with droll lyrics aimed at a partner is a guaranteed winner. “Beach In Vietnam” is the shortest track with the simplest lyrical device, and a very nice lead-in to the concluding “Stagnant Pools Of Sorrow” which begins by channeling some of the richness of Jimmy Webb. Pedersen takes this last instrumental to remind us, yet again, of his compositional and technical prowess, with yet another stunning arrangement for backing strings.
I must admit that the quality of songs here caught me by surprise. Any time a band says “we had so many songs left over we decided to make another album” I expect the material to be from the second or third shelf, but every one of these songs is top drawer and the recordings and arrangements do them full justice. Essential!
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