Monday, July 14, 2008

it's the sound of octopuses giving infinite high-eights

Unbeknowns to many, the Beautiful South split on 1st February 2007 citing "musical similarities". It hasn't therefore taken long for singer Paul Heaton to release a solo album (not his first, admittedly) - indeed I saw Heaton perform much of the content of "The Cross Eyed Rambler" at a gig in November last year.

I adore the Beautiful South and even I was stunned at quite how fantastic this Heaton album is. Lyrically (of course) it is tremendous, as you'd expect from a man whose biting satire has decorated the charts for two decades. It is harder than the Beautiful South's sound - more driving guitar and of course the absence of a female vocalist - but this retains the jauntiness of the Beautiful South with a more crisp edge. It's also liberally sprinkled with swearing, and no album can be faulted for that. "Everything is Everything" - Heaton's seven minute Grumpy Old Men rant is a spectacular highlight.

If you're no Beautiful South fan then the mere sound of Heaton's voice is likely to put you off, but if to any degree you are, I guarantee you won't be disappointed by this album.

A lot of people have told me that they have been disappointed by the Black Kids album as "it doesn't live up to the hype". Whilst that may be true, such has been the level of anticipation for this record that even if it may not hit those heady expectations, it doesn't make it a bad record.

It's simple enough - 38 minutes of jaunty indie-pop - and whilst top 20 hit "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" may be the stand-out tune the rest of the album is likeable enough. There is some 80's influence here (which is going to meet with no disapproval from me) and it's a perfectly decent enough debut.

"Home Before Dark" is Neil Diamond's first UK #1 album (if you exclude compilations) and it doesn't take much listening to realise why. The stage was set with the superb last album "12 Songs" and Diamond just seems to go from strength to strength. "Home Before Dark" is a beautifully crafted selection of superbly written songs brought to life by Diamond's maturing, rich voice.

This is so far from the sequinned cabaret crooner of the 1970s it almost beggars belief and Diamond underlines his (recent, it seems) growing critical acclaim by providing a simply wonderful collection of songs. I bought this on the same day as four other CDs and I have barely been able to remove it from the player (the Paul Heaton album is the only one that runs it close). A superb, superb record. Buy it at once!