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Paul Menel & the Essentials Paul Menel & the Essentials
Album: Spare Parts For A Broken Heart
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 14
Website: http://www.paulmenelessentials.co.uk

"Goody goody gumdrops" - that's a phrase you don't hear much these days. Unless that is you listen to 'Strife' (as in 'trouble and …', maybe a hint of the old Cockney rhyming slang?) which packs a particularly biting lyric on Paul Menel and the Essentials' new album.

It's an album which offers up a real set of musical allsorts yet combined with a lyrical sense which draws on what he knows - the emotional rollercoaster that is life, its challenges and all the associated highs and lows. A key theme makes for a compelling lyrical content that all leads nicely to the album title (and title track) which offers some hope and salvation for the emotional upheaval.

The mixed bag of musical allsorts range from the easy sax break and female backing vocals in the opening 'Til Dawn Rolls In', the chugging AOR moving into world music intro to the title track and the melodic washes strings in 'Pedestal'. The folky-jig feel of 'Let's Do It' emphasises the repetitive refrain - "maybe we should just get on together" and 'Crash & Burn' has a similar psychedelic folky feel, before the wonderfully titled 'The Pleasures Of Vicarious Vengeance' kicks in with a funky soul groove. Channelling a deeply personal furrow in 'Hey, Did You Hear About Paul?' you'll find him confronting his own demons; a song about casual romance, being caught betwixt responsibility and reverie, it typifies the musicians confessional in song.

'I Told My Last Lie Today' goes all new wave, with a Madchester Happy Mondays style 'Step On' groove, not quite twisting a melon (man) but "twisting like a fish on a bow/worm on a hoe." While 'They Call Her Leaf' is both a terrific track and a nod to his prog rock roots having been the singer in IQ for a couple of late eighties albums, there's not much else which references what is perhaps his maybe is his best known work. He does revisit IQ's 'Common Ground' - always a wonderful performance on 'Nomzamo' - although his 2017 version not quite comparing to be truthful, the more sombre rendition giving way to something which tips the balance the other way. However, having not heard those familiar strong rich tones since his IQ days some thirty years past, it's quite refreshing knowing Paul Menel is still out there on a career path.

Mike Ainscoe