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Teddy Thompson - Bella

Teddy Thompson, Bella

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TEDDY Thompson’s fifth album is arguably his most fun and candid to date.
Produced by David Kahnem, Bella combines lean rock and roll with lush string arrangements on material that aims to be both catchy and startlingly frank.

The singer sets the template early, with breezy opener Looking For A Girl insisting that he’s “looking for a girl who drinks and smokes/Who takes a lot of work but can take a joke” and, of course, who’s “good in bed” and “who knows how to love me”.

It may seem like a self-absorbed wish-list but it’s kind of fun in its frankness and catchy as hell. And Thompson has a voice that’s very endearing.

Delilah then dips into more serious ballad territory… an ode to a friendship that needs to become more that’s shot through with the type of sweeping string arrangements that should appeal to Fyfe Dangerfield’s fans.

The rock vibe returns on I Feel, even though Thompson’s love-lorn Romeo is forced to admit “there’s nothing I can do to bring her back”. It’s an honest meditation on a relationship that just ended… but Thompson is clearly an artist in touch with his feelings, who knows how to sing about them without coming over touchy feely.

And on Over and Over, he enumerates the ways he falls short as strings circle ominously around his hauntingly tortured vocal. It’s pretty compelling material, too, with Thompson even go so far as to say “I shit on myself so that no one else can”.

There’s more torment on the Phil Spector-style Take Me Back Again, which weaves some more great string arrangements and striking guitar riffs, over yearning lyrics.

While the heartbreak theme reaches its crescendo on the fun Tell Me What You Want, a duet with friend and fellow singer Jenni Muldaur, which sees Thompson cajoleing and Muldaur brushing him off, as twanging guitars, strings and percussion swirl around them. If anything, the vocals soar to Roy Orbison-like heights by the final chorus… while there’s a playful sense about it that also reminded me of John C Reilly’s Let’s Duet moment on the Walk Hard soundtrack. It’s an album highlight.

Elsewhere, there’s more tender introspection on the comforts of home on Home (and a return to mum!) and gritty guitar rock on The Next One… a sly take on bumping into a former love when not looking your best. The central guitar riff is particularly striking.

The One I Can’t Have, meanwhile, is a breezy slice of Beatles-pop that finds Thompson lamenting the fact he can’t get the girl of his dreams, despite there being a world full of other beautiful women! C’est la vie!

We could continue but you get the drift. Thompson is being candid but he’s enabling his listeners to have fun while, quite possibly, reflecting on their own romantic misgivings and failures. It’s an approach that works to create one of his most accessible, enjoyable and even intimate albums to date.

We loved every minute.

Read our interview with Teddy Thompson

Download picks: Looking For A Girl, Over And Over, Take Me Back Again, Tell Me What You Want, The One I Can’t Have

Track listing:

  1. Looking For A Girl
  2. Delilah
  3. I Feel
  4. Over And Over
  5. Take Me Back Again
  6. Tell Me What You Want
  7. Home
  8. The Next One
  9. Take Care of Yourself
  10. The One I Can’t Have
  11. Gotta Have Someone