The modern world seems inundated with “singer-songwriters. ” Excuse the use of inverted commas but you know what I mean, you have all seen them. A guy in a checked shirt at the open mic. session trying earnestly to be the next Ed Sheeran or Frank Turner with some sense of entitlement that because his parents have bought him all this expensive gear you are required to take them seriously. Generally what they are missing more than anything are memorable songs. Okay, they are probably missing passion, drive, honesty, earnestness, technical ability and charisma too but lets just talk about song writing. What they should do is go home, listen to Things I’ll Never Say on repeat. In fact more than listen to it, digest it, examine it, dissect it and use it as a template, a manual, a bible even of how to write accessible, memorable and meaningful songs.
Okay, take “I Don’t Have A Voice” – as relevant a political message as you can get in these disenfranchised, bewildering and troubled times, it sounds like it comes from the heart, lyrically astute and yet it is still a great pop song. And that is what Phil does so well; he never loses sight of the accessible pop vibe. When singing about past relationships on Old Wounds, yes it is deep and reflective and in anyone else’s hands it could be an insular and melancholic subject matter, but here he adopts a cool, slow soul mood and as brass soars and stabs, growls and grooves, it is transformed into another stunner.
There are metaphysical waltzes (Ballad of The Flower and The Tree) Neil Finn-esque magic (Stepping Off The Edge) and beautiful, minimalist balladry (The Quiet Goodbye.) The album comes with the by-line that the “new album is a statement of intent as Phil Cooper quits executive management to pursue musical dream.” Well, if this is the result he should quit jobs more often.