Solo musician blends painful breakup with witty vocals

Christopher Nguyen


When going solo, the respective band member usually takes one of two paths: breaking entirely free from his or her band’s sound (The Postal Service) or running away with the same aesthetic for solo fame (Beyonce). Graham Wright, a quarter of Tokyo Police Club, finds a middle approach to the extremes with his first full-length solo album, Shirts vs. Skins.

There’s still the hyper-pop energy of Tokyo Police Club. In “Heavens Just for Movie Makers,” the drum hits are tight, the guitars peppy, the vocals bright. The song answers the dreams of music supervisors looking for a song to put a hip television show everywhere.

Wright, however, reveals his outsized musical ambitions and surreal lyrics. In opener, “Chucklefucks,” he adds pounding electric flourishes to the staccato piano chords and jamming maracas. Elsewhere, he strums an acoustic guitar (and a few times, blows harmonica) while his quivering vocals wonder what happened to his girlfriend (“Did you look back when you walked away? I got to know”).

Written after a breakup, Shirts vs. Skins is the album from a guy who’s trying to come to grips with being alone and articulating it in the wittiest way possible. With his Willie Nelson impression in the seemingly jolly, “Something Stupid,” he sings, “I heard you something stupid, why oh why am I not surprised.”

The contrast between the pained lyrics and the innocuous music makes Shirts vs. Skins an entertaining listen. Hell, his former girlfriend may find herself tapping her foot along.