Former Coral guitarist plays is loveable on his vocal debut
Who’d be a singer-songwriter? Why, only every bruised little snowflake capable of writing a song and singing it in a tremble-tongued croak, for whom every romantic encounter that doesn’t end in some kind of acoustic self-flagellation represents a wasted opportunity, whose subsequent expressions of melancholy feel as affected as an Instagram filter.
Since leaving The Coral in 2008, Bill Ryder-Jones has gone out of his way to avoid becoming one of their number, principally by not bothering with the ‘singer’ part of the equation. His first two solo releases (‘A Leave Taking Soundtrack’ and ‘If…’, both from 2011) were orchestral, mostly instrumental works that emphasised his talent as an arranger. Those skills are also utilised here – from the whooshes of pedal-steel on ‘Anthony & Owen’ to the droning, hypnotic interlude of the title track, ‘A Bad Wind…’ is a meticulously crafted album.
But this time round Bill has switched his focus to songs – 11 of them, delivered in a hushed, semi-spoken voice that frequently sounds like it’s trying to slunk out of the musical foreground. Once you’ve accustomed yourself to the sedate pace, something haunting, stately and – in a small-scale, arthousey sort of way – cinematic gradually reveals itself. References to the hypersensitivity and naivety of childhood abound, though most of them – like the mini-narrative of ‘Christina That’s The Saddest Thing’ and ‘You’re Getting Like Your Sister’ (in which the protagonist professes his love for a girl before falling for her sister) – are intended to bring a wry smile of recognition. It’s not maudlin or cynical, but often quite comical.
Which brings us back to our original question: who’d be a singer-songwriter? Well, ‘A Bad Wind…’ is almost enough to give them a good name.