Paul Smith & The Intimations - Contradictions

by Lawrence Poole Rating:7 Release Date:2015-08-21

When Britpop heroes Pulp imploded in the early 00s, the loss from the limelight of their frontman - the wry, alternative geek hero Jarvis Cocker - was felt deeply. While Sheffield's poet laurete was away licking his wounds, up in the north east a natural successor was being born.

Apparently spotted nailing a cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' at a pub karaoke night, Paul Smith has gone on to front Geordie noisiks Maximo Park for the last 15 years to wide acclaim. Sharing Cocker's love of literature, politics, and a cutting turn of phrase, Smith has, for the last five years, been able to balance a solo career with the live and studio output of his band.

Returning with his second solo offering, Contradictions, Smith is this time backed by the Motown-esque sounding backing band, The Intimations.

The follow-up to 2010's Margins, the 13-track release is far more reflective, insular and mature in general than the efforts concocted via his long-standing day job.

Opener, The Deep End, is a steady start with a memorable melody dancing across a New Order-tinged guitar lick. Follow-up Break Me Down laments the insecurities of a relationship, always one of Smith's great songwriting strengths, while Reintroducing The Red Kite - a homage (and a metaphor?) to the encouraged growth of the feathered friend to the north - tips his famous fedora hat to his passion for birds.

All The Things You'd Like to Be and I Should Never Know are steady mid-paced album tracks that bounce along nicely without pulling up any trees.

The Golden Glint takes things down a more interesting (if short) path, pure north-eastern folk the type The Unthanks peddle so well.

People On Sunday is a nostalgic lament to the last day of the week in times gone by, while Coney Island has a real disco flavour to it and sugary and sparky as the New York fairground itself.

The Mezzanine Floor showcases Smith's ability to bend and mould multi-syllable words into musical spaces they shouldn't fit into, but do and is the standout track of the release for it.

Closer Fluid Identity rattles along like the East Coast Mainline heading home, without really distinguishing itself properly at any points along the journey.

Smith will never have the nation's indie darling tag that Cocker has been buttoned with for the best part of two decades, but that's not to say he isn't or shouldn't be cherished.

Like his Sheffield musical forefather, Smith also truly comes into his own in the live arena as anyone with tickets to his autumn solo and Maximo Park winter tours will no doubt attest.

This album will be all the better for it in those sweatbox arenas too.

 

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