ANTI- RECORDS Jan 27th, 2017
This is a really strange album. Not strange, as in difficult to listen to, but strange, as in “what is he trying to do?” It is super-accessible; as accessible as a thirty-second advert break and as hooky. It is also pure pop and as perfectly polished as XTC from back in the day. Perhaps I shouldn’t expect anything different from an artist who’s been on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label.
Steve seems to be showing us every aspect of what he can do, every genre – the fuzzed, the Afro-beat, the pop, the lightly funky, the lightly punky, the bluesy. It is rammed with instrumentation and as busy as a speeded up cartoon. There’s something cartoony about the lead guitar lines too – cheesy as all get-out and begging for your attention like a puppy. Every track brings something new and each listen, some new detail I hadn’t noticed. The set impresses, yet I find it impossible to love – it tries too hard and is too mannered…. right until the stutteringly lovely closing track.
Every track here is an instrumental and, whether by design or not, the leads seem phrased to hit the points where a voice would sing, rather than the traditional lead guitar part. That added to the strangely constricted guitar tone he favours, sounds like someone trying to sing pop through a guitar. It makes a refreshing change for a hotshot guitarist to express himself concisely, without bluster and you won’t find a moment’s wasted space on the album. It makes for a very busy set of tunes and it feels like a relief that the ten tunes clock in at under half an hour.
If ever a man was made for quirky singles played on the radio, it is Steve.