Personal Trainer - Big Love Blanket (The Industry)
Credit: Marieke Hulzinga

Personal Trainer – Big Love Blanket (The Industry)

Personal Trainer are the brainchild of Willem Smit, the band’s frontman and a multi-instrumentalist. It began as an attempt to bottle the fervent energy of Amsterdam’s indie scene and to allow for something entirely unpredictable on stage and in the studio.  There is only one rule: there are no rules. On 4th November the seven-piece release their debut album Big Love Blanket via The Industry.

What a glorious opening to this album. It begins with the two-minute title track and the single vocal of Williem. It’s the perfect introduction to the world of Personal Trainer, kooky and individual and yet inviting the listener into their gang. Slowly more instrumentation and more vocals are layered in, as if the gang is coming together. The lyrics speak of themes, reminding us we are not alone in our challenges:
Keep smiling. It’s a brave endeavour but it will not get you there.
So we hide away, from silence”

And then we are thrown straight into track two. The previous single ‘The Lazer‘ is a belter. I dare you to listen to this track and not smile or bob about.  Plus anyone who can make a hugely entertaining video of a man on a chair has to be worth a listen. ‘The Lazer’ makes us think about life and its meaning.  What makes us happy?  Should we just sleepwalk through conforming to the expectations of society?

“You’re working on your walking, you’re working on your talking
You’re working on your social skills, you’re working on your backhand,
You’re working on your songs, you’re working on your maths
Working on becoming who your daddy used to be”.

Willem says of the track:
“’The Lazer’ was one of the first songs we ever wrote together a band. To me ‘The Lazer’ always felt like my big Personal Trainer anthem. We used to have this shifting line-up situation where I didn’t want to rehearse much, so I wanted to make songs that were very easy to play. “Can you play an A chord and a D chord? Do you want to be in my band?” was the vibe. And that’s ‘The Lazer.’ It’s easily the oldest song on the record, most trainers hate it – that’s probably because we play it nearly every show, and we played it for an hour straight during our 24-hour show last year – but it always stuck with me. It feels like a logical decision to put it on our first long record.”

We are on a roll now and ‘Rug Busters‘ continues Personal Trainers joyous style of inclusive post-pop.  Partly spoken, partly sung ‘Rug Busters’ is a comfort blanket of deliciousness.  The soundscape gets increasingly funky and infectious as it progresses and the energy is ever present.  This is simply music with a massive smile on its face and it’s a pure delight.
“What d’ya gonna do? Just dance.”

‘Milk‘ takes the tempo down a notch. It’s a thoughtful track, with Willem sharing his soul and opening up his heart. “I drink milk straight from the carton” is the chorus, as if it’s a child’s act of rebellion that we can all relate to. Lead single ‘Key Of Ego’ is multi-layered with its trashy thrashy funk punk.  Personal Trainer love to combine various tempos and styles.  There is a chaotic energy here but it’s still dancefloor friendly.  Lyrically Willem is confronting his struggle with masculinity and maybe this layered approach is a perfect expression of such confusion. “I have to find my way back home’’. It’s part of the human condition that there are many facets to any issue and here it is explored with a myriad of tempos throughout producing a cracking track. 

Texas In The Kitchen‘ initially changes the vibe completely. There is almost a sinister start at its opening, and that breezy vocal has gone for the moment, replaced by a more serious tone. Musically the layers of guitar and percussion are used to dramatic effect, particularly as the track continues and chaos ensues with the trombone further adding to the mayhem.

Cut Loose’ is a slightly different style and tempo, all thumping drums, shimmering tambourines and plucking guitars. It has a stop start quality to the music. “Don’t look back” say the lyrics and again Personal Trainer are looking after us, providing comfort and positivity. ‘The Money Department’ brings us back into familiar Personal Trainer territory with a dancey poppy track. What a banger of a track ‘Former Puppy‘ is. Willem expands on the track: “I think ‘Former Puppy’ is partly about making music when you’re not really thinking about it or when you’re just following your instinct. I always try to do that in some way, it could be false nostalgia, but I’m finding it harder to do now than I did before.”

While working on this song, I was kind of trying to mimic the way I made songs when I was a bit younger,” he continues. “During a big chunk of it, there are two drum tracks with a lot of fills playing simultaneously, which I think gives it kind of an over-eager sound, if that makes sense. There are a lot of guitar overdubs on this one. It’s hard to judge whether we got close, but I said ‘I want them to sound like Oasis!’ a lot during the process.”

Big Love Blanket closes with ‘Vaalserberg Hero’. Vaalserberg is the highest point in mainland Netherlands. It’s a jaunty track, not quite as upbeat as the majority of the album but Personal Trainer show they are not a one trick pony. Their music is uplifting, joyous, dancey, positive, quirky, kooky and yet the themes touch us all. Our lives are brighter simply by having Personal Trainer in the world.

For more information on Personal Trainer please check out their facebook and twitter.


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