Acid Country - the snappy new solo effort from The Housemartins front-man Paul Heaton - unfortunately suffers from distinct unoriginality, and all too often relies on the same ideas that may have worked for the singer-songwriter in decades gone by, but that no longer hold sway.
Acid Country is not a poor record, but its playful lyrics based on northern witticisms - something that Heaton has certainly mastered in the past - often become suffocating, and at times a focus on stream-of-consciousness narratives overpower any real melody. That said, the record starts promisingly, 'The Old Radio' is immediately likeable and chugs along with Heaton providing a soundtrack to history's most remembered paper-cuttings - John F Kennedy's death, The Falling of Iwo Jima, and Ginger Rodger's hips all benefit from the singer's country wail. 'Lover's Lane' however - clocking in at over six-minutes - seems misplaced and unnecessary, Heaton sings I can promise you the earth/but no longer the sky, in a throw-away ballad that detracts from the promising pace garnered during the first couple of tracks.
Elsewhere, 'Life of a Cat' is likeable and charming and 'House Party' swaggers along at a fair old rate, however it's 'Ladder's Bottom Rung' - the forthcoming single- that arguably offers listeners the most. A delight of punchy guitars, the track not only exhibits a flash of brilliance; it demonstrates Heaton's well-honed talent for constructing the rousing, sing-a-long, chorus.
And then we come to the bizarre 55-verse title track - a presumable ode to faux-British institutions in which Heaton croons his way through the lazy days/the blacks the whites/bombay mix/scampi bites. English cider, Turkish kebabs, and Polish beer also get a mention, as does - joined by the din of multiple backing vocals - the Cornish pasty. The singer-songwriter's latest effort does little to falsify the fact that Heaton is - without doubt - an entertaining performer, in fact, it's almost a given that catching him live this year will be time well spent, but as a document of the type of artist he is now? Acid Country suggests little has changed - which is just the way many of his followers will like it.