RECOMMENDED RECORD: Polite Company: Please Go Wild (digital outlets)

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Perfectly Good Explanation
RECOMMENDED RECORD: Polite Company: Please Go Wild (digital outlets)

From time to time Elsewhere will single out a recent release we recommend on vinyl, like this album which comes in a ridiculously cute cover (front and back) and has an insert sheet of the excellent lyrics.

Check out Elsewhere's other Recommended Record picks . . . 

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The key name in this band is singer-writer Alan Gregg, formerly of the Dribbling Darts of Love (alongside Matthew Bannister), the much-admired Mutton Birds and who has also recorded with Neil Finn and Ron Sexsmith.

Now based back in London, Gregg brings a wry, observation attitude like the best of British (Ray Davies, Jarvis of Pulp, Damon of Blur, Mike Skinner of The Streets) but with a melodically light touch and sharp writing.

At times he brings to mind a domesticated Randy Newman, a more cheerful Gilbert O'Sullivan or a less cynically cruel Tom Lehrer who'd grown up in Norfolk not New York.

When Gregg writes a cheery pop song such as No Time Like Tomorrow (“for those things I'm supposed to do”) it's as much about indolence as it is whimsical love song, and the chiming pop of Barefoot Billionaire takes a sharp poke at those Silicon Valley wunderkinds whose eccentricities and asocial manners must mean they are geniuses who understand the arcane world of Bitcoins and NFTs when no one else does.

Buzz Me In paints a picture of yearning and painful loneliness which wouldn't shame O'Sullivan (all to a memorable pop melody with horns), New Yacht is about the signaling of their wealth by the avaricious nouveau riche and Peculiar Julia seems to blend Syd Barrett's observation of eccentric characters with warm radio-friendly pop.

And there is the lovely, sympathetic and upbeat portrait of one of our best kept secrets and street busker on Otis Mace Guitar Ace: “He never seems to draw much of a crowd and when he ends a song the applause is never very loud, and yes it's true he is past the first blush of youth. But he knows just what to do with three chords and the truth . . . please go wild for Otis Mace . . . he sings about the things that really matter”.

Otis Mace, Guitar Ace
 

And so does Gregg – here supported by a small sharp band – in songs which skewer surreptitiously by sneaking up courtesy of his enjoyable, half-familiar melodies. Gregg may seem polite company, but behind the surface warmth he's often got something cold to say.

Among the best here is Perfectly Good Explanation, a chipper swipe at PR spin (“it is not what it looks like, it is not what it seems”) and you could imagine Gregg playing piano in the corner of fashionable winebar as he sings this to the hip crowd sipping Chablis who are oblivious to the fact they are the target: “There is no such thing as privacy anymore, they predict your behaviour on what you did before. They know everything about you and they sell your information and they always have a perfectly good explanation”.

The final song Tell Me When It's Time To Go is about someone who doesn't know when they've outstayed their welcome, the last to leave the party.

That isn't Gregg on the evidence of this album: across 11 songs this is very clever pop with much to say about these times.

You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here


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