Rock, August 2020

hfnalbum.pngTim Burgess
I Love The New Sky
Bella Union BELLA1006CD; LP: BELLA1006V

Burgess has recorded 13 albums with The Charlatans, a group who have proved as enduring as his bowl-cut, but this is his first completely self-penned solo album. And he has found a perfect foil in multi-instrumentalist Daniel O'Sullivan from Grumbling Fur, who is equally adept at pop and experimental styles, and contributes some deft violin and keyboard arrangements. Burgess's vocals have a light and breezy charm, but we are never far from an inspired structural twist or chord sequence in songs with echoes of Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren. Lyrically Burgess is always engaging, making a droll examination of art celebrity on 'The Warhol Me' while on 'The Mall' he portrays a shopping centre as a thing of wonder. MB


Badly Drawn Boy
Banana Skin Shoes
One Last Fruit OLF005CD; LP: OLF005LP

After Damon Gough won the 2000 Mercury Prize, life became complicated by sniffy reviews, disappointing sales and record company problems. He's remained largely silent for the past decade, but this is a convincing return to form under his famous alias. He satirises celebrity on the title track and becomes more autobiographical on 'I'm Not Sure What It Is' with its positive hook – 'the best part is that the future's unknown' – and an irresistible melody with jazzy syncopation and punchy horns. It feels a long way from his more homespun early work and typifies the album's potent mix of vivid, multi-layered arrangements and songwriting craft. MB


Blanc Check BCR020CD; LP: BCR020LP

Since Stephen Luscombe retired in 2011, Blancmange has become a solo vehicle for Neil Arthur, who has gone from the agitated raconteur on '80s hits like 'Living On The Ceiling' to the older, cooler persona who presents us with conundrums and verbal puzzles. On Mindset the combination of sequencers, synths and rich vocal melodies underpinned by hissing, clicking synthetic drums sounds like the electronic template of 30 years ago given a modern makeover, with more depth and bottom end. Eighties synth pop often spoke of alienation and dystopia, and on 'Antisocial Media', a song about Internet trolling, Arthur shows that those ideas are just as relevant now. MB


Louise Patricia Crane
Deep Blue
Peculiar Doll PECUL001CD; LP: PECUL001

A former vocalist with the Eden House collective, Crane readily acknowledges the compositional influence of Kate Bush on her debut album, but on 'Deity' here the way her vocal melody soars across the sonic panorama also reminds me of All About Eve, and the swirling, spangly guitars evoke early Cocteau Twins. Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson plays flute on 'Snake Oil', but the crucial contributor is current King Crimson guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, whose production adds psychedelic colour. Crane guides us through pastoral moods with strings and uillean pipes, and on 'The Eve Of The Hunter' her voice rises from soft melodic cadences to break free at its dramatic conclusion. MB