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Vinny Peculiar Vinny Peculiar
Album: Return Of The Native
Label: S&D
Tracks: 11

I've always thought the name Vinny Peculiar was what Vyvian from The Young Ones would call completely brilliant. So much so that it feels strangely ordinary referring to him as Alan Wilkes, so playing the card of artistic license, he's going to remain, in my mind, as Vinny Peculiar. A man who's been afforded much deserved acclaim from many sources, his solo work reaches into double figures in album releases, his collaboration with Oasis' Bonehead in Parlour Flames (another brilliant band name) was a particular favourite - possibly enhanced by lying on the grass listening to them play at Ramsbottom Festival one gorgeous Sunny afternoon. I digress.

As the album title says, he's back with a set of songs that furnish the reputation with narratives that wouldn't be out of place coming from the pens or being tapped at the keyboards of some of our nation's favourites that see him readily compared with the eloquence of Ray Davies and the routine drollness of Jarvis Cocker. So, how do what he calls "the past and present collide in the imagination"?

First impressions? Swagger is the word that comes to mind. A full and punchy mix heralds the riff driven namechecks for cricket club discotheques, T Rex and Tony Blackburn, immediately striking a chord and pulling in us old timers who are on the same wavelength. It's the first of several perk up and smile moments as the Malvern Winter Gardener sits and reflects on dreams of Wishbone Ash, "hiding in the potting shed, listening to The Grateful Dead."

A healthy dose of irreverence is the order of the day as you start to really consider how many songs you know about historical battle re-enactments and take in observational narratives that inevitably introduce us to unusual characters and find Vinny channelling his best Ray Davies (especially the "oh how we laughed" line) in rolling out a whole list of them in a gently rollicking Return Of The Native, including a couple that may test the resolve of trivia buffs.

The gentle poignancy of 'The Singing Schoolteacher' is a tribute to one of his inspirations, a North Bromsgrove teacher who encouraged the young Peculiar to go with his musical leanings - the name of Clifford T Ward. Their briefly shared vision ("homework was the enemy…and the NME") and the sudden shift to the sombre reality of his passing. Calling up 'Detroitwich' (love the name - has no-one else thought of that?) offers the antidote of a spoken word rap that transports the threat of the urban metropolis into rural Worcestershire in a demented and bizarre vision/dream. It's a brief interlude in a run of songs that take on a more reflective hue. There's a hint of sadness about David Swan the river man and the Hawley fuelled first person character of the broken man who finds it hard to find the words.

I'm sure Vinny appreciates those words that rate him as an undervalued national treasure, but I'm also sure he would be just as satisfied if a shedload more people would listen to some of these marvellously observed songs.

Mike Ainscoe