Stephen Solo – Pii2 album: review by Stephen Watt
“You’re a heat-seeking missile on my tail”, sings Stephen Solo aka Stephen Farrell on his track ‘Slipstream’, taken from his latest album ‘Pii2’ – the follow-up to last year’s ‘Pii’ album. With such aberrant, but entirely rewarding, lines and quirks throughout the former Sonny Marvello songwriter’s record, this is an avant-garde album which returns the listener over and over, begging the question if he did actually just sing that. And yes – he did!
Recorded entirely on an iPhone, Solo’s synthesised sounds allude to the electric eighties without apology, wedging in a hefty slab of comedic lyricism and heart-quenching melodies. These are ten tracks which bend the mind, frequently adopting alien falsettos to narrate everyday life and feelings. Opener ‘Internet Song’ is a farcical paean to Kraftwerk’s robots, including a dubious German accent delivered over offbeat synth sounds. This formula continues in the alternative fantasy of ‘Loco Coco’, full of squelching alien vocals and firework-whooshing keys on a hugely uplifting track about being in a state of despair. The artificial German accent and role-playing continues in the quite bonkers ‘Mini Metal Girl’ using a gothic spoken word piece to move the song onwards but entirely changes direction and excels two and a half minutes into the song with a fantastic dance-beat and breathy Wham-like Ha-Ha-Ha’s which should really have the crowd moving during live performances. It’s an entirely change in direction from the beginning of the song where
The quite gorgeous ‘Think Strange’ delivers a far gentler vocal; “a dreamer in love with the dark”. Solo’s romanticism is at its peak with a heartbroken delivery, with shades of Bryan Ferry’s ‘Slave To Love’ lending itself at points to the ear. The quixotically driven nature of songs such as “Slipstream” and ‘Secrets You Keep’ continue to demonstrate Solo at his heartbreaking and starry-eyed best, singing “You’re my Queen of put-downs” using vocal effect apps. Only mid-album track ‘Superwar’ and track 7 ‘Broken Record’ fail to hit the mark, with the former a fairly ordinary melody imposed beneath Solo’s observations about the world’s rapidly-changing technology.
In the final two tracks on the ‘Pii2’ album, Solo delivers some outrageously funny spoken word; the first of which involves an infuriated telephone conversation with a friend discussing the work done by ‘The Handyman’ before reaching its hilarious conclusion. Unquestionably Scottish! Album finisher ‘David Bowie Never Had To’ is an electric inventory of domestic chores which the late singer would never have to indulge in. Sounding incredibly like Hot Chip, Solo even attempts to imitate Bowie on the track to riotous effect. It is clear that Solo is an artist who doesn’t take himself too seriously and as a result, the ‘Pii2’ record is allowed to flow freely in a thousand different directions, keeping its listener hooked on where the next line or song will take them.
A digital download and USB cassette release of the album by record label Last Night From Glasgow (LNfG) will be made available following Solo’s “Phalbum Launch” at La Chunky Studio in Glasgow on 18 August 2017.
This section: Gig Guide, Stephen Watt, Poet.
- Some Distant Day with Cheeky Besom Productions
- Cottiers – Bar, Restaurant, Theatre, Glasgow West End
- Electric Frog and Pressure Riverside Festival
- Electric Honey Records Showcase – OranMor
- Carnival of the Dark Arts
- Sid Griffin and Peter Case Doublet Bar
- Bone Idle Bros, Starry Skies and Slipper Elm The Britannica Panopticon
- West End Festival: The Luthiers’ Concert Websters Theatre
- André Krengel & Roland Krause, Websters Theatre
- West End Festival: Songbird: Ellyn Oliver Sings Eva Cassidy
- Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, Cottiers
- Hayes Carll plus Travis Linnvale, Cottiers
- Boo Hewerdine and Darden Smith, The Admiral Bar
- Jess Klein and Mike June, The Doublet Glasgow
- Choral Concert St Marys Episcopal Cathedral
- The Marbles and Friends Live
- Seven Song Club, Lynnie Carson , Rebecca Jordan and Bearpit Brothers
- The Carlton 3, Peat Stew at The Shandon Belles The Buttery
- Jen Fairgrieve at Tchai Ovna House of Tea
- Songs in the South: David Starr, Martha L Healy and Al Shields