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Paul Steel - Moon Rock

Paul Steel, Moon Rock

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THERE’S a fine line between the joy of listening to the upbeat melodies of bands like The Beach Boys and the irritation of overwhelmingly feel-good pop such as The Feeling. You can have too much of a good thing… and sadly Paul Steel falls into the latter category.

Hailed in some quarters as representing the possible second coming of Brian Wilson, Steel delivers songs that are, by turns, whimsical, funny, OTT, and pop-rock/operatic.

Sean Ono Lennon perhaps hits the nail on the head best when he states: “This kid is really sweet, and has some interesting chord changes and melodies. His songs are very ambitious, and their best moments sound a bit like Queen meeting The Beach Boys in the bedroom of a 15-year-old boy wearing Batman pyjamas.”

The fusion of Beach Boys and Queen is certainly true, while the Batman reference probably alludes to the sweeping, cinematic style of tracks like Cry Away, the mini-opus that brings the album to a close in brash fashion amid a fanfare of orchestral flourishes that, admittedly, is hard not to admire in some small way.

But overall, Moon Rock irritates with its flamboyance more than it impresses. Songs threaten to appeal, before losing themselves amid wildly OTT tendencies.

Album opener In A Coma begins with the sound of a life support machine to signal its intent [that it’s quirky and different] before hitting the listener with hand-clap beats, tinkling piano sweeps and a set of retro-tinged vocals that hark back to Elvis Costello and The Beach Boys (particularly with the layered vocal harmonising). It’s impossibly upbeat in sound in spite of some darker, more playful lyrics. And it sets the album up reasonably well.

But sadly it can’t sustain the momentum. Suspicions over its sustainability surface almost immediately. Title track Moon Rock is fairly incosequential, before Oh No! Oh Yeah! hits you with the type of falsetto vocals that remind you of the outlandish qualities of Mika, coupled with the rock opera style of early Queen. But it doesn’t win you over in quite the same fashion.

Rust & Dust has a Carpenters-style quality in some of its early melodies but is again let down by the vocals and its insistence on piling on the piano loops and tempo changes, while Your Loss attempts to rock things up a little by focusing on the guitar riffs… only to lose its way amid more wayward vocal harmonising.

The remainder of the tracks fall into pretty much the same trappings, and you may have happiness fatigue by the time you reach the final sprint. Steel doesn’t want for ambition, but he could do with reigning himself and his music in.

Download picks: In A Coma, Cry Away

Track listing:

  1. In A Coma
  2. Moon Rock
  3. Oh No! Oh Yeah!
  4. I Will Make You Disappear
  5. Rust & Dust
  6. The Way You Are
  7. Your Loss
  8. Crossed The Line
  9. Hole In Your Heart
  10. Summer Long
  11. Cry Away