Album review: Kid Harpoon – ‘Once’ (XL)

Long delayed debut from London singer-songwriter worth the wait

[a]Kid Harpoon[/a]’s debut has been gestating for an age. It was 2006 when he first popped up as Nambucca’s resident singer-songwriter-drunk, but he ended up scrapping the prospective album of songs he’d amassed and all went quiet. Now, however, he’s returned with a loud, Technicolor bang, having managed to recruit legendary producer Trevor Horn, who helped ‘shift’ about 90 per cent of all ‘units’ in the ’80s. That’s not to say the troubadour of old has been destroyed by ‘Relax’-style studio fire and brimstone, it’s more that the Kid’s perfectly constructed songs now have plenty of space to express themselves. It means that even the stripped-back, introverted songs, like ‘Buried Alive’ and ‘Back From Beyond’, can reflect
the psychedelic bent of the lyrics.

Suddenly being transported out of Holloway and into the LA world of Horn has undoubtedly given Harpoon confidence to push himself. Sure, he still comes across like a travelling minstrel in the murder ballad ‘Death Of A Rose’, or ‘Running Through Tunnels’, in which humans are re-imagined as rats, but, with a circus of instrumentation behind him, he’s full of eccentric music hall tomfoolery.

He’s also caught a dose of the Tom Pettys, with opening track ‘Stealing Cars’ wrapping a filmic new-wave sheen around a lovely lyric in which joy-riding is recommended as great first date fare. Best of all, though, is ‘Burnt Down House’ which begins as an ode to loss, but, as lines like, “We watched the world ignite under our feet” take hold, then swoops romantically upwards on organs and strings like [a]Bob Dylan[/a] escaping his own misery on a hot air balloon ride to the moon. A triumphant comeback from the Kid.

Martin Robinson

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Click here to get your copy of Kid Harpoon’s ‘Once’ from the Rough Trade shop now.