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Genius Steals - Nobody Knows Anything

  by Adrian Janes

published: 7 / 1 / 2023

Genius Steals - Nobody Knows Anything
Label: Genius Steals
Format: CD


First album in many years from former Adrian Borland sideman Pat Rowles with his new project Genius Steals features pop-rock songs as melodic as they are honest.

Pat Rowles is a multi-instrumentalist and singer who has had an on-off musical career, including group records in the 1990s with No Corridor and Dead Man’s Curve, and 2000’s solo effort ‘Gauche’. But he’s perhaps best known for his bass contributions to the late Adrian Borland’s albums, integrally so on the searingly intense ‘Harmony and Destruction’ (2002). Now, after several years’ gestation, comes ‘Nobody Knows Anything ‘, primarily created in conjunction with Rob Ball (guitar) and Russell Cooze (bass). Borland’s influence can still be detected, both in its melodic brand of rock and the sometimes pitiless self-examination of the lyrics. ‘Without Whom’ is a lively opener, punctuated by trumpet that recalls The Teardrop Explodes’ ‘Reward’. Yet beneath the brightness, and characteristic of several songs, is wry self-deprecation: ”The answer is/I don’t know what the answer is“. It’s the voice of experience, rueful at the hardness of learning its lessons, but then finding consolation in love: “It’s hidden in your kiss”. This lyrical theme of the need for humility is even more pronounced with ‘Get Over Yourself’. Despite the self-laceration (“Where were you when God was making the world?”), there is a pop sensibility at work in the music as Ball’s guitar sparkles, especially towards the end. Another angle of attack comes in ‘That Wile E Coyote Moment’. Passionate female vocals and a dramatic descending motif mirror the song’s defining image, of the cartoon character who never learns to accept reality and so plunges from a cliff to an ignominious end again and again. Sprightly acoustic strumming underlies ‘You Can’t Go Back’, as Rowles details examples of the temptation and impossibility of recovering past good times, whether in a band, a relationship or a town. The old-fashioned backing vocals are fittingly wedded to a song of nostalgia that’s built on classic pop song structure. If it’s difficult to learn from your own experience. The melancholy cello of ‘Kids of Your Own’ delves into the sadness of realising almost too late that your parents might have had some knowledge to impart after all. Recalling how he’d dismissed his Mum’s worries for him as a teenager, Rowles ruefully sings: “Now I’ve felt my heart as it quickens/At the sight of my little girl’s smile/But the plot’s never solved, it just thickens/And the fear never leaves, it just sleeps for awhile”. The acoustic instruments make a fitting folk music for such folk wisdom. The opener’s energy returns on ‘The Most You Can Feel’, bursts of harmonica and vigorous guitar over an energetic beat, all fuelled by the pain of a break-up where “The exit wound just never seems to heal”. After its edgy guitar intro, ‘The Other Shoe’ becomes a moderate-paced piece of pop-rock, once more reflecting on the theme of not really learning from mistakes, while in the ballad ‘Unmanned’ Rowles depicts himself almost as a comical Jekyll whose reason is constantly undermined by bestial behaviour: “While you’re making up your mind/Monkey chooses for you”. A gleaming guitar hook worthy of The Pretenders runs through ’45 Going On 15’, a title which at once evokes middle-age and also, for some, the teenage years which revolved around precious plastic discs. Like so much serious pop, it’s bittersweet, the music a pleasure even as the painful confession is made: “I’m just as mixed-up now/As I’ve ever been”. ‘Leaving It Late’ relates the understated tragedy of a “Comeback Kid” who continues to believe he can still make it. If musical stardom is implied, the song also points to the wider mind-set that’s criticised elsewhere, the refusal to face present reality: “He’s living in the past/Cause then he knows what happens next”. And it’s a stance even more harshly dealt with on the kettledrum-punctuated ‘Gutless’. The saying “talent borrows, genius steals” is most obviously at play in the final track, ‘All Is Vanity’. Having pinched the title from the Bible (Ecclesiastes), the song is founded on the intro to Jeff Buckley’s ‘Lover, You Should Have Come Over’. But whether a loan or permanent theft, the fault is forgivable when allied with such good taste. Another song of regrets, it’s perhaps the most full of feeling too, crystallised in a frantic guitar solo. The accusations that have often turned outwards to explain the singer’s unhappiness now twist inwards : “I used to think it was everyone else/But I’m starting to think that it’s me”. Yet although these songs speak so much of all kinds of falling short, Rowles’ melodic gift and knowing wit preserve the sadness but prevent them from being an exercise in depression. Their audience is most likely those of his age-group, but they will find much that speaks to them.

Track Listing:-
1 Without Whom...
2 Get Over Yourself
3 That Wile E Coyote Moment
4 You Can’t Go Back
5 Kids Of Your Own
6 The Most You Can Feel
7 The Other Shoe
8 Unmanned
9 45 Going On 15
10 Leaving It Late
11 Gutless
12 All Is Vanity

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