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Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences – Apologies To The Enlightenment

For the last few years Paul Hawkins has been honing his outsider version of Pub/Art Rock and with this album the elements gel and he takes his place on the throne as King Of Fools. If you’re of a certain age some old art rock will come to mind along the way as you journey over the two discs. Ian Dury has been mentioned (agreed, if we’re talking Kilburn & The High Roads) and I’d add a bit of Deafschool and Doctors Of Madness. I notice from the promo sheet he has supported Wreckless Eric which makes absolute sense. But really it’s all part of a dark but accessible stream of Psyche from Rocky Eriksson to Earl Brutus. There’s a certain suburban weirdo literary bent to it, Ray Davies meeting David Lynch could be responsible for I’m In Love With A Hospital Receptionist for example.

It is split into two halves, disc one being ‘The Day The Music Stopped’. The portentous brooding opening The Beasts In The Upstairs Room (the start of which reminds me of Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil for a few seconds!) sounds like a great way to start a live set too. A chugging – yes – beast bathed in Hawkwind’s Space attack with a nod to Bowie’s Heroes, it spits out an unpleasant tale of dysfunction that ends on a ventilator. The anthemic The Day The Music Stopped is more gentle, with it’s twangy guitar and amusing ‘This is the epilogue’ chant.

Being an old Rocker I fall more naturally for the ‘heavier’ riff stuff, Monkey Serum follows in the sticky footsteps of Medicinal Compound and Love Potion No.9 – this time the juice is anti-Darwin stuff that may come from the syringe of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The final track on this half, I’ve Had My Fun, is a starkly nostalgic banger built up from a start like John Barry’s Theme From the Persuaders to a dirge recording the despair of the slip into the ordinary life. The lyric proclaiming the protagonist will ‘raise kids to be Realists… not have their dreams shattered like what happened to me’. This track builds to near frenzy (with power house drums) as the replaying of the protagonists perceived failure leads him to derangement.

Preceding …Fun is the affecting Seven Inches Tall, which lapses from the character driven pieces to what seems a genuine sense of inadequacy played out over piano not a million miles from Madness.

Album part two – ‘You’re Never Gonna Leave Behind The Freakshow’ starts with
The Yellow Castle On The Hill a track that I can believe is largely based on a factual encounter (or ‘almost’ encounter) spun out by imagination – the classic unrequited love, though taken to epic proportions as insanity intervenes.

Some chutzpah was required to produce what is to be the next single ‘Every Word I Say To You Today Will Be A Lie’ – to say it sounds like Ian Dury & The Blockheads would be an understatement. To be fair band and label are holding their hands up. And let’s face it no one has really taken that template and it’s probably a long enough wait. Who cares if it works – and it does.

In all honesty the last quarter isn’t as immediately pleasing but this could be fatigue from Hawkin’s voice. It might not appeal to the wider public – a sort of Anthony Worrell Thompson drone. But if you take to ‘non singers’ that’s fine, I love Alice Cooper, Mark E Smith and John Lydon. It does wear in one sitting, though, over this double album. As you may imagine the reviewer doesn’t have the time needed to let tracks grow on him (and from this section I like hypnotic The Lowest Low and the re-appearance of ‘this is the epilogue’ on the final, string covered, The Epilogue so it’s not duff).



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