Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Album: Paul Heaton, The cross eyed Rambler

It's refreshing to find one of the old stagers of quirky pop hasn't lost his unconventional touch.

Paul Heaton, the sharp-tongued singer-songwriter with a penchant for the droll lyric and the alternative side of pop, is at his idiosyncratic best on his 14th — second solo — record, The Cross Eyed Rambler.

And it is the same story as far as lyrics and music are concerned — sardonic wit-laced observations of life in a Northern town and catchy uplifting tracks with the odd element of surprise.

From the off — and the half-talking, half-cackling sounds of what could be an old recording by George Formby — Heaton takes us on a wonderful journey across glorious titles such as Mermaids and Slaves (the single), The Balcony, Deckchair Collapsed, Little Red Rooster, God Bless Texas and Everything is Everything.

Years after The Housemartins' demise and just a short time since The Beautiful South walked off into the sunset, Heaton is still churning out infectious moments of musical eccentricity.

The Cross Eyed Rambler boasts a whole array of odds and sods — and while Heaton favours the stripped-down approach, he does up the tempo on occasions, particularly the loud guitar opening to the title track and the big bold riff at the beginning of I Do.

In truth, The Cross Eyed Rambler is a collection of songs which are joy to behold.

And if you are a fan of The Beautiful South, you will love this.

Heaton has a knack of holding on to the listener's attention with the minimum of effort — even when his tall tales have little to do with you. But it's the way he tells them.

On The Cross Eyed Rambler, Heaton mixes sweet melodied pop with rabble rousing lyrics and lashings of punch. Fat Chance, his 2002 solo debut, was a little on the dark, drab side of peculiar.

Thankfully, there's no sign that Heaton is to continue the trend.

Best is Little Red Rooster — Heaton's quirky take on growing older.

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