Henry Priestman – The Last Mad Surge Of Youth (2014)
I thoroughly enjoyed Henry Priestman’s début solo album, “The Chronicles Of Modern Life”, back in 2009. It was a refreshingly honest, edgy, biting collection of songs which also had the added advantage of having rather brilliant, catchy melodies, sing-along choruses and plenty of wry chuckles too. If you didn’t already know, Henry has been in the music business for a long time, best known as part of the eighties group The Christians, but as a solo artist, he is a relative newbie. After having such a well regarded, critically acclaimed first album, following it up is always quite a difficult task but I have to say that I was really looking forward to listening to “The Last Mad Surge Of Youth”. This hasn’t been a hastily written and produced album, made to capitalise on success, no, five years have passed since Henry’s début, so surely there must have been ample time to create something crafted and accomplished? In short, yes, crafted and accomplished is exactly what this album is. Although it lacks the surprise factor of its predecessor and is also slightly gentler in theme and tone, there is a warmth and wit running throughout the songs which makes listening to it feel like slipping into a comfortable, familiar pair of slippers, sipping on a glass of wine and watching your favourite sitcom. That’s not to say that it lacks edge, but it doesn’t quite have as much of the dignified resentment and measured anger at being thrown onto the scrap heap, compared to “The Chronicles Of Modern Life”.
This really is a lovely sounding album, from the delicate few bars of brass that open the piece of work to the acoustic guitar-led song closing it. There is a folk-influenced characteristic to the music and instrumentation throughout this record and it is beautifully performed by all concerned. If there is any criticism to be levelled, it is that it’s all a bit too comfortable, perhaps a bit too safe. If the lyrics weren’t as good as they are, it could all have been a bit forgettable and formulaic, musically, but thankfully Priestman’s words take centre stage and give the songs the vital character they need. There are stand-out musical compositions, the slightly Gallic “I Cried Today”, for example, stands out from the crowd and makes this album thankfully more than just a vehicle for Henry’s lyrics. My personal picks are the first track, the beautifully touching “At The End Of The Day”, the heart warming message to his children, “We Used To Be You”, the tongue-in-cheek “In My Head” and the politically charged “Same Circus, Different Clowns”. Although I have to admit that this album hasn’t quite lit up my world like his first release, it’s still a more than worthy piece of work and will bring a lot of happiness to a lot of people, mainly those with plenty of life experience, a good sense of humour and a decent taste in music.