Just over two years ago, I reviewed new releases by Cleo Sol, Squid, and XTC’s Andy Partridge. Coincidentally, Squid and Cleo Sol just released new albums. To complete the symmetry, I realised that I missed Partridge’s 2022 EP the first time around. All three are arguably weaker than their predecessors, but still worth your time.
It’s sometimes hard to keep up with all the acclaimed music emanating from the current crop of post-punk bands in the UK. Squid’s debut album, Bright Green Field, was one of my favourites from the movement. Their second record, O Monolith is more insular and less accessible than their debut, but it also expands the band’s range, hopefully setting them up for a long career. They recorded the record at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Wiltshire.
Real World is a James Bond baddie base from which Peter Gabriel is planning on taking over the world. Dan [Carey]’s studio is an old Post Office room in south London.
The funky beat of ‘Undergrowth’ is an unexpected direction for the band, but it works, backing their squiggly riffs. Squid have cited Talk Talk and These New Puritans as influences, and the more textural moments on songs like ‘Swing (In a Dream)’ and ‘Green Light’ reflect this. There’s less post-punk intensity than before, but songs like ‘The Blades’ build to cathartic climaxes.
I found O Monolith difficult to access, but there’s a solid record here, suggesting possibilities for the future.
It’s not just Sault who have been prolific over the past few years – co-lead vocalist Cleo Sol has just released her third record of the decade. She’s reliably classy – her vocals are soulful and smooth, while she also has the low-key intimacy of a singer-songwriter. I loved her first two records – they’re both on my top-rated albums list. Heaven is predictably enjoyable, but it feels more modest than her first two records.
It’s brief, at just over half an hour, and often feels slight, but there’s a great stretch of songs in the middle. The jazzy touches on the title track work well. ‘Old Friends’ is a delicately delivered tale of failed friendship. Sol also dispenses sisterly wisdom on ‘Miss Romantic’, affirming the self-worth of a woman in an unsatisfactory relationship. The production from her creative and romantic partner Inflo is as gorgeous as ever.
Lukewarm on this record? No worries, Sol is scheduled to drop another solo record later this week.
MY FAILED SONGWRITER CAREER, VOLUME 2
My Failed Songwriter Career, Volume 2 is another four-song EP, rehabilitating songs that Partridge wrote for other artists. It’s maybe half a step down from Partridge’s first volume, but it still showcases a songwriter who’s better than almost anyone else in pop/rock. This time around I like the swing of ‘Let’s Make Everything Love’ and the psychedelic, sophisticated pop of ‘Love is the Future’. I hope Partridge keeps releasing these.