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Paul Heaton - Acid Country

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 12 / 9 / 2010

Paul Heaton - Acid Country
Label: Proper Records
Format: CD


Appealing, yet somewhat formulaic country-influenced third album from former Beautiful South and Housemartins frontman, Paul Heaton

Be it as a Housemartin or a member of the Beautiful South a caustic tongue and cutting wit have been Paul Heaton's hallmark for nearly 30 years. His lyrics often read like the poetry of a painfully honest and slightly jaded socialist, but often set to a tune so cheerful or catchy that you find yourself happily singing along to the saddest tale of self destruction. 'Acid Country' is his 'third solo album proper' and the country vibe is apparent from the very opening slide guitar bars of 'The Old Radio' alongside the satisfying, twisting lyrical storytelling. It laments the golden days of radio and the place it still holds in history and our hearts. 'Even A Palm Tree' returns to that well worn Beautiful South ground of a cheeky duet, a relationship in melt down and throws in a nod to Heaton's own alcohol battles: "So when I drank that quart of vodka and I turned up at your door/Was I meant to say I love you at half past fucking four?/Is that what true love does to you?/Does it microwave your brain?/ So you can't tell the difference between love and pain?" 'This House' treads the very same path but in a more melancholy style. The former is a stronger song and I am not sure there is space for both here. At just shy of seven minutes 'Young Man's Game' turns the tempo right down allowing meandering stream of consciousness to spill forth culminating in ever more voices joining in lending a slightly drunken lock-in feel. Overly long tracks can stop the flow of an album, but it this case it flows along smoothly and you don't notice the time fly. At eight minutes the title track rolls merrily along in a blur of pop culture reference, 'Strawberry Field' style flute and a convivial 'best of British' feeling which you just know is not really hiding some vitriol. That said it attempts to take in several musical styles and does feel too long. 'Welcome to the South' is surely a nod to the Beautiful South album of virtually the same name, 'Life of a Cat' feels a little hackneyed. Yes,the world is a little tough - who wouldn't want to be a cat occasionally but I am not sure the whimsy bears out 4 minutes 23 seconds? 'House Party' seems to be channeling Tom Petty at the gathering from hell - "Just as she was about to reach the climax of the tale/You cut her off with gotta go/I left the tap runnin back in jail/And that story about your mother might sound better told in Braille." All in all the country element aside there is little truly new here. But I'd argue that a good tune and intelligent often wry lyrics set to appealing music is hardly a bad thing.

Track Listing:-
1 The Old Radio
2 Even a Palm Tree
3 It's a Young Man's Game
4 Welcome to the South
5 Life of a Cat
6 House Party
7 This House
8 The Ladder's Bottom Rung
9 Acid Country
10 A Cold One in the Fridge
11 The World Over

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