Tom Cunliffe: Template For Love (usual digital outlets, CD)

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Primrose Hill
Tom Cunliffe: Template For Love (usual digital outlets, CD)

Anyone expecting this second album by folk-rocker (and then some) Tom Cunliffe to be more focused than its predecessor will be disappointed . . . but also perhaps pleased by the increased diversity here.

If that debut Howl & Whisper seemed to have its roots in pubs (the Pogues were a reference point for a few songs) this steps sideways, right from the power-pop of the exciting and elevating opener This Table is A River to the quiet but lyrically penetrating and sometimes pessimistic acoustic ballad It's Gonna Be Ok at the end.

Between those bookends there is the terrific Asking For a Friend which arc welds smart lyrics onto a primitive Lou Reed riff (“will you love again, I'm asking for a friend”), the surging, acerbic millennial social comment of I've Been Bitten By An Old White Man (“run me over in a van before I get a chance to change into an old white man”), the sensual pop of Burning Blood and a lovey chiming ballad Primrose Hill (again with social observation).

With a stellar supporting cast – Dave Khan, Reb Fountain, Ben Woolley, Dan Luscombe and Gus Agars, co-produced by Ben Edwards and Khan – these 11 intelligent songs can be as much muscle as they are subtle, and Cunliffe's lyrics (reproduced in the CD booklet) bear consideration on their own.

Cunliffe seems to feel the weight of maturity, the loss of belief in the certainties of yesteryear and the brightness of past loves. But to these he brings an elegant and confident delivery, lets the arrangements add an extra dimension (the sheen of “strings” on the stately Hollie's Songs) so by the end he has not just expanded his musical palette but left the way open for more directions to be explored.

On first hearings this didn't seem to quite gel, but Template For Love is a real album . . . as in a collection of different, finely focused photographs placed together for careful consideration and enjoyment.

Recommended.

TOM CUNLIFFE TOUR DATES 

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