Old skag head’s back, then — older (40 now!), probably none the wiser, still a very good songwriter. This may be the best thing he’s ever done, at least since those incendiary first moments of the Libertines.
Yeah, I can do without the affected drawl skittering this way and that around the melody — he’s better doing his affected Steve Harley yelp — but there’s not too much of that, still less the old angular post-punk guitar. Instead you get the occasional lo-fi shambolic babyish jug-band thrash, all of which are good, and a bunch of slower songs illustrated with violin and delicately picked guitar. The best is ‘Paradise is Under Your Nose’, a stunning ballad handled with restraint and taste and with a peculiarly moving last refrain: ‘I miss you now, my love,/ I want you now, my love.’ It’s a lovely song.
The introspection continues on the cutely self-knowing ‘Narcissistic Teen Makes First XI’ and the sweet- as-hell ‘Someone Else To Be’, where he explains he’s looking for a leather jacket in which he can ride into the sun. I don’t know what he’s in search of, paradise being under his nose or, at worst, up it. But the good songs keep coming, the gentle ‘Travelling Tinker’ and the irresistible ‘Shoreleave’, which seems to borrow its tune from ‘Blanket On The Ground’ and in which he tells us ‘I never lost control. I never had control’.
I can even put up with his excruciating Yankee scat monkeying on ‘Punk Rock Bonafide’. He is such a great talent in this admittedly limited medium. And so often such a dickhead. Ah well.