Friday, 28 February 2014

Phone Me If You're Bored (Aidan Smith and his Indulgent Friends, 2014)

Aidan Smith is back, Indulgent Friends in tow, for another slipshod, ramshackle excursion into love, loss and absurdity.

Phone Me If You're Bored features Smith's trademark lo-fi style; music seems crafted from tin cans, bits of string and pine cones, cobbled together in a bedsit in the trendiest part of town.

His grab bag of boundless imagination, catchy tunes, musical versatility and glowing, flowing wit create a jumble sale of an album that's a pleasure to hear.

In Smith's capable hands, whimsical comedy jostles with tragedy, while tiny jewels of poetry glitter amongst the nonsense.  Highlights include 'Mr Pigeon' (gorgeous chorus) and 'Cinema Complex', an ode to dating at the eponymous. Other songs tackle parades, the joys of non-alcoholic drinking, preparing for suicide, military uprisings and a heartfelt lullaby. Clever couplets, choice language and catchy tunes are too numerous to list.

Production values seem higher than before, sound quality seems better, Smith's voice exudes dishevelled charisma and sparkling humour. It's hard not to smile along.

The track listing feels like classic Smith, indeed at times Phone verges on the overfamiliar. The weighting of light-hearted whimsy, forays into mental illness, historical nostalgia, romance and zany humour feels exactly the same as it was on Allotments, or Fancy Barrel. It's harsh, but fair to say there's nothing truly surprising on offer. Phone is comforting and familiar, like the hero of the album's titular track, but like him may struggle to get the girl.

Phone can also be too personal; the eminently skippable 'My Friends' too banal to be anything but autobiographical, surely leaving every listener bar the ten or so friends (listed excruciatingly in order) completely unfulfilled.

The good far outweighs the bad. Well worth the wait, Aidan Smith continues to be a multi-talented, warm and personable feature of modern folk music, a treasure to be hoarded, pored over and admired. It's been six years since his last album, so will someone please wake me in 2020?

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