Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
Terence Blacker is a singer songwriter and writer of wry offbeat songs. Like dry Jake Thackray and American Tom Lehrer, Blacker has the ability to look at the ordinary, everyday, that nobody writes about and turn out gems of social observation. Like Lehrer and Thackray his powers of observation are coupled with a dry sometimes cynical, knowing delivery that sharpens the songs. These are not just funny songs, like interludes from 70s That’s Life or Nationwide, there is a beautiful irony. Earlier pieces like “Would You Love Me If I Were Brazilian” poke fun at the ordinary as Terence over a wonderful 60s Samba beat points out that everything he does would be exotic, exciting and more desirable if he delivered it over sophisticated guitar singing in another language. Through songs like “Harry Loves Porn” or “Sad Old Bastards with Guitars” lamenting those people who sung “Hope I Die Before I Get Old” then didn’t and endlessly relive their youth, Blacker with sharp rhymes, excellent lyrics and self-deprecating humour delivers truths without labouring the point or preaching. On “Enough about Me”, with its wonderful cover image and Stand Comedian one liner title, business is very much as usual as Terence Blacker delivers wry barbed messages over beautiful guitar. “Still Searching For That Heart Of Gold” with lovely harmonies, revisits a slightly more positive version of “Sad Old Bastards With Guitars”, celebrating the lot of the aging Folk performer, stringing acoustic hit lyrics into an anthem for the marathon runners of music, still going and still hoping. As a contrast, and demonstration of the lyrical power behind the grin, “I’ll Be There with You”, takes the same qualities of age, consistency and the long road and weaves three minutes of poignant, delicate beauty. Like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Old Friends/Bookends” there is power and charm in Blacker’s honest and sparse delivery. Alongside the honesty of “I’ll Be There with You Terence” is a consummate crowd pleasing performer and songs like “I Can’t Call My Baby ‘Baby’” are a stand comedian’s routine set to sweet jazz tinged acoustic cafe music. The barbs and depth are still there as he ponders the impossibility of marrying well-worn clichés with contemporary ideas and language, while wryly noting that there are still moments of passion when ‘baby’ hits the spot. Terence Blacker is in good company as I am sure I remember reading that John Walters and John Peel wouldn’t playlist anything that used that epithet. Blacker himself as well as a songwriter and performer is also a writer of adult and children’s fiction and wrote and presented the BBC Radio Four series on politically incorrect music Taboo-Be-Do, so this is clearly a subject close to his heart. Disappear is a barstool drinking flight of fancy song that avoids a lot of the Blues clichés with some wonderful references and wordplay. Think 60s Al Stewart singing a song in the spirit of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl’s “Space Girl Song”, on a stool in The Asteroid Belt’s answer to Les Cousins. “First World Blues” again takes the form of the Blues and the protest song and turns it on our broadly concerned but bigoted and cosseted look at the world. An answer to all those people who start a party conversation with ‘you think you’ve got it bad but…’ Through the album Blacker’s ordinary eye wryly considers affairs in Marriage Song #1, with his dry delivery underlining the emptiness of an affair. The same character from Sad Old Bastards with Guitars and Still Searching pitches in perfectly on The Thoughts of an Average Man, against hipster designer trendy folkies. The description is spot on, fill in the details and shame the guilty yourselves. Easy Listening with some clever lyrics, fine harmonies and a flute part lifted off a 60s John Martyn album. The Blues of ‘Blind Boy’ Waddington-Bruce pokes fun at the British Blues revival and English Blues musicians. Clichés and Blues imagery is ripped apart and some myths explored and exploded, brilliant. “The Band Played On” is a surreal and dark tale about playing in the pit band at a high class Parisian orgy. Terence then uses that bizarre metaphor of playing on despite the chaos, as a life lesson that is surprisingly sharp and knowing. Blacker, underneath the humour is a powerful assured guitarist with a strong rhythmic right hand, excellent musicians around him, every now and then like on “I’ll Be There with You” and “An English Love Song” he delivers a straight ahead perfect lyric in a perfect song. Humour in music divides, some people don’t want songs that raise a wry life or a smile, but this is knowing writing with the laughs masking depths and intelligence. Anyone who can write songs that smoothly reference Star Trek and The Matrix has to worth a considered listen.