The throwing open of doors and windows that Paul Weller began so impressively around his 50th birthday for the album 22 Dreams – then continued with Wake Up The Nation and Sonik Kicks – reaches a new high point with Saturns Pattern.
Stooges-like rock riffs mingle with hazy electronic psychedelia (courtesy of the Amorphous Androgynous), a smidgeon of Clavinet funk, shades of prog, melodic Mod pop and even, in the glorious Going My Way, elaborate stacked Beach Boys-like harmonies.
It’s one hell of a ride and is arguably Weller’s most joyful-sounding record since Cafe Bleu, back in the early days of The Style Council.
If the listless Runout Groove indicated The Lilac Time were retreating from the music business back in 2009, The First Song of Spring, the sumptuous opening track of its long-awaited follow-up, immediately promises signs that Stephen Duffy, his wife Claire and brothers Nick and Melvin are back on form.
No Sad Songs bathes in a warm glow of acoustic guitars, bouzouki, banjo and pedal steel, with Duffy waxing poetically about love, weddings and starting a family.
Prussian Blue is perhaps the only song to ever include the words ‘diaphonous’, ‘vituperative’ and a reference to Rigby & Peller bras but Babylon Revisited is more politically barbed with lines such as: “Do you remember Mervyn King/And his friends who lost everything?/All’s well I hear they rot in hell”.
Mass acceptance of the kind Duffy once enjoyed with Kiss Me and his multi-million-selling Intensive Care collaboration with Robbie Williams seems unlikely but The Lilac Time deserve room of their own in pop’s crowded marketplace.
First coming to prominence a decade ago with three ambient albums and an EP for the Leeds-based label Leaf Records, French multi-instrumentalist Cecile Schott – aka Colleen – delves deeper into delay and electronic loops in her new album Captain of None.
The treble viola da gamba she first used on Les Ondes Silencieuses in 2007 is prominent and for the first time there are vocals too – in a barely-there, half-sung, half-whispered kind of way. The meaning of the English lyrics are often opaque – none more so than “I’m kin to the broken Aztec cup/I’m kin to the golden ram from Iraq” – yet they add to enigmatic air of the record.
And the busy tribal percussion and electronic breakdowns of This Hammer Breaks are an intriguing diversion into pastures new.
Leonard Cohen live albums are certainly plentiful – over the course of a 50-year career he’s released at least seven of them – but Can’t Forget is at least different in that it features two new songs – Never Gave Nobody Trouble and Got a Little Secret – as well as a pair of never-before recorded cover versions of Georges’ Dor’s Quebecois love song La Manic and George Jones’ country lament Choices – all delivered in Cohen’s familiar lugubrious baritone.
As a souvenir of his 2013 world tour – which weighed anchor at Leeds’s First Direct Arena – it’s a worthwhile buy, particularly for the droll monologue that prefaces the closing track, Stages, in which the 80-year-old thanks the audience for their applause “as a gesture of generosity to the elderly”.