Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott - What We Have Become (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THE new album from Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott marks the first time since the multi-million selling days of The Beautiful South that the two have recorded an LP together. But while it’s safe to say that fans of that band may enjoy the reunion, there’s not much here that’s different.
There are songs to like, inflicted as they are with typical doses of breezy pop and country-tinged pop, but the album sometimes sounds a little too samey, while some of the later tracks also lack something once the pace has been slowed.
Lyrically, tracks arrive loaded with wit and humour, whilse retaining a strong social conscience that touches on the changing social landscape of Britain, whether on songs like One Man’s England and When I Get Back To Blighty.
There’s also shots at stereotypes in music on I Am Not A Muse, while The Snowman and Some Dancing To Do deal with issues of loss.
An early highlight comes in the form of DIY, a track that arrives like a good ‘ol country ho’down, complete with robust hand-clap beats, rollicking guitar licks and a terrific lead vocal from Abbott. The chorus is tailor-made for singing along to, just as the instrumentals are sure to have you up and dancing (especially once the guitar solo hits).
There’s a sense of epic grandeur to Some Dancing To Do, which unfolds amid gritty guitar licks and theatrical piano arrangements, and which deals with loss and the idea that there is some dancing and drinking to do to compensate. It’s a big track and another strong-point.
But while such moments do excite, tracks like opener Moulding Of A Fool sound too similar to Beautiful South material and One Man’s England adopt a retro-soul pop approach, instrumentally, that sounds too generic no matter how intelligent the lyricism and social observations on the divides that shape our nation.
Hence, for every feel-good hit like Costa Del Sombre, which benefits from a European influence instrumentally and a more upbeat vocal delivery, tracks like The Snowman drift into below par James Blunt ballad-style territory and The Right In Me sounds like a filler.
But then it’s that kind of an album.
Download picks: DIY, Some Dancing To Do, Costa Del Sombre