It’s hard to embark on an essay when you know that the defining statement about your topic has already been written. For Bristol-based band Trust Fund’s newest album No one’s coming for us, the defining statement in question was written by Emma Garland in a Noisey post about a week and a half ago.
“If there was a sound for holding hands, this would be it.”
Come on, Emma. You fucked my whole shit up right there.
I can’t be too upset – I am not capable of the simple poetry that Garland is a goddamn laureate of (check out her incredible review of Lil B’s vegEMOJI app). However, I will add that if you take the chance on this imported mid-fi artifact of uncomplicated, shoot-from-the-hip confessional songwriting, you will walk away feeling like you just read a “best of” compilation of your journal entries (or private Tumblr posts). So, I slip in a caveat to Garland’s summation – No one’s coming for us is much more precise than “a sound for holding hands”. It is, at times, the exact sound of holding hands with somebody you thought you’d never see again. The sound of holding hands with somebody you’ve loved for as long as you’ve known them. The sound of letting those hands go by force or by choice, only to suddenly call them back to memory weeks/months/years later.
Frontman Ellis Jones has equal and eerie gifts for verbal and melodic phrasing. For the uninitiated, “We’ll Both Apologise” (the standout track from 2013’s Don’t Let Them Begin), is the best primer to understanding Trust Fund’s execution of this symbiosis. The music is driven and smartly explores the full dynamic range of what two guitars, a bass and drums can produce. Ellis’s voice is simultaneously timid and strong, mainly occupying the upper mids of his register while quixotically utilizing the highest ends to add depth. The lyrics of “We’ll Both Apologise” begin straightforwardly, making vivid the otherwise mundane details of existing next to someone else. As the track buzzes forward, it is clear that Ellis can barely stand existing in his own skin, making his relating smoothly with someone else nearly impossible without taking his frustrations out on himself. The repeated chorus of “We’ll both apologise at the same time / We won’t be defined by mistakes in our lives / And we’ll both apologise at the same time / Your eyes will be brighter, but mine will also shine” brings a salve to the rawness left in the wake of the second verse. Somehow, throughout the song and the surrounding EP, Ellis finds ways to imbue hope in his accounts of collapsing in on himself.
With Trust Fund’s first proper full-length, Ellis has grown into more than just a better confessional songwriter – he is a master documentarian of his own experience. Most importantly, he expertly curates the presentation to avoid the pitfalls of letting his past and present slip into sentimentality or martyrdom. Due to this careful filter, the content that Ellis decides to fold into No one’s coming for us resonates both powerfully and intimately with the listener.
For better or worse, Weezer’s Pinkerton has become the benchmark by which music like Trust Fund’s (indie centered on emotional transparency and the sharp lyrical exploration of the artist’s experience) is measured. There are plenty of reasons why the comparison is valid and even necessary in identifying the place that Trust Fund occupies on the spectrum. Both albums stretch their genre’s boundaries with similar sonic results (though ironically, Weezer brought softness where there was too much noise and Trust Fund brings noise to where there has been too much softness). Each album is a perfect time capsule while remaining entirely universal because they deal with unpacking the human experience. All to say that if Pinkerton was an important album for you, No one’s coming for us will become one as well.
However, there is a necessary distinction to be made between the two, which will perhaps say more about the difference between Ellis Jones and Rivers Cuomo than it does their respective bands. One of the harder lessons in nostalgia that I’ve learned is having to come to terms with the fact that Pinkerton, the album I held dearest to me in middle and high school – the one that I earnestly used to frame my understanding of myself and life and love – was the manifesto of an emotionally and mentally unwell person. Though it is a wildly important and truly brilliant work, Pinkerton is also the gripping portrait of a broken young man who justifies his objective manipulation and mistreatment of others by claiming subjective victimhood. The “oh shit” moment of realizing that I had found comfort and even validation in it for more than a decade of my life could fuel a separate essay, but I bring it all up to highlight Ellis’s healthy balancing of honesty with objectivity. He is able to present himself as flawed without appealing for sympathy, which helps him illuminate and explore the complexity of his experiences, to the benefit of his listener’s own self-reflection.
Possibly Ellis’s greatest strength as a lyricist is his care for the other people who make up No one’s coming for us. There are no victims or saints, just kids who want to be better and are working on themselves. They will still run into brick walls, fuck up, break each other’s hearts, but they are also willing to take responsibility for it all. By avoiding extremity and embracing the weird nuances of life in the writing, instrumentation and delivery of these songs, Trust Fund becomes more engaging than their wordier, angrier and holier-than-thou contemporaries.
“Cut Me Out” sums up the band’s strengths pretty well. As Ellis tears apart the guy who’s taking his place (“He is not a fragile alien / He is a grown man trying to fuck with your head / I am a fragile alien / And I do mean that”) he also plainly admits “I definitely deliberately lied every night / For 18 months of your life / I don’t know why I did that” and finds that ultimately “It’s so hard / In that situation, I would do exactly the same thing / I would do exactly the same thing”. In the video, the band is overrun by the cutest canines and Ellis sings into a dog bone on a mic stand, proving that the best people are those who are able to occasionally make light of the weight they carry.
Songs like “January” and “Jumper” find ways to make you nostalgic for your own heartbreaks, for the harder conversations with the people you shouldn’t be with anymore or who shouldn’t be with you. Rather than reopen old wounds, though, Trust Fund somehow make you smile wryly about the past’s blows. There’s something darkly funny about lines like “It seems like all our friends are having such a bad year / And it’s only January”, “If I can’t even finish breakfast without texting you / I’m sick”, and “And as we walk, I will yawn / I will fall into you, if I am allowed to / But we can’t get back together / Everyone knows that.” As much as No one’s coming for us reminds you of your shit, it does so in a way that leads to powerful self-reflection that ultimately softens the blows of the past and lets fairness into the equation.
Kate Hudson has this line in Almost Famous – “If you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” At the risk of copping out twice by stealing the sentiments of others to frame my reflections on this album, I think the same idea applies to No one’s coming for us. There’s something familiar in the way that Ellis considers himself in relation to those around him and vice versa. Beyond simple relativity, the album offers conversations you could only have with those closest to you. Listening to it provides communion with someone who shares your experiences, who knows exactly what to say to diffuse your nerves, to offer a balanced view of the other side while still being able to say “fuck ‘em.”
This might not be an album for everyone, but it doesn’t need to be. For those who it speaks to, it speaks loudly and with compassion. It speaks to those who need reminding that while no one may be coming for them, they’re not waiting alone.