Peace City West - Steve Cradock Album Review
Album titles can become oddly relevant in time - Cradock's second long-player has been gifted the moniker previously applied to a war memorial in his hometown of Birmingham, the East version having been erected in Minsk. As events start to unravel in the Middle East at the moment, the word 'peace' seems as distant as ever, if not more.
Thankfully, Steve Cradock's whimsical '60s retro-pop lullabies seem more capable of inciting bouts of hugging rather than firing missiles at your supporters. Armed with a few special guests including Paul Weller (not surprisingly, he's been playing in his band for aeons), PP Arnold and, er, James Buckley from The Inbetweeners TV comedy, the whole album is a journey through the carefree innocent days of the Mini, rainbow-scarves and milk-bars, not to mention just about every Brit-pop act from the golden-era of The Beatles et al.
Recent single "Last Days Of The Old World" possesses another timely title and a joyous hook-line straight out of the Yardbirds songbook, while "Finally Found My Way Back Home" sounds like a paean to his beloved Brum, done in true swirly psychedelic style. In fact if he'd got Joe Cocker in to sing it, we'd have been none the wiser as to the age of the song.
The '60s homage continues with song-tiles such as "My Scooter Sits Idle" and "Kites Rise Up Against The Wind", the former of which mentions flares while the latter begins with flutes-a-plenty. Can you handle this much open plagiarism? Um, well yes actually - Cradock has written some pretty little songs here and he's done about as much 'borrowing' as XTC, Stephen Duffy, Teenage Fanclub and future tour-mates Beady Eye. The only things that spoil the whole experience here are the pointless and nerve-nagging interludes - edit them out and you have a shorter but less irritating set.
Special mention goes to the superb "Lay Down Your Weary Burden", the standout that doesn't sound like a Carnaby Street cast-off, moreover it's a tune that Richard Hawley might consider adding to his canon. Oh and "I Man" ought to be further up the track-listing than it is, it's a belter. However, some of the album tests the boundaries of whimsy - check out "Ring The Changes" for proof.
I imagine legions of Weller fans will flock to this album (he's plugging it on his website), but even if you fail to grasp what the Modfather does these days, you might enjoy the less swaggering delivery from this under-rated guitarist. It's certainly a step-up from his Ocean Colour Scene material.
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