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CD: The Blow Monkeys - The Wild River | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Blow Monkeys - The Wild River

CD: The Blow Monkeys - The Wild River

Eighties pop-soul crew settling into an impressively comfortable groove

It was this album's good fortune to arrive on a miserable rainy afternoon. At other times my first impressions might be a bit harsher about its comfortable, retro dad-grooves and easily flowing sax solos, but instead I let it wrap me like a blanket, and by three tracks in it was absolutely impossible to dislike it.

But then again, back in the Eighties, The Blow Monkeys were always adept at turning the smooth, super-mainstream and potentially pastiche-y into something rather more interesting – somewhere in the British white soul continuum between the gruff urgency of The Style Council and the more delicate narratives of Scritti and Prefab Sprout – so maybe it's not surprising that they're still adept at delivering a bit more than meets the eye.

Latterday Blow Monkeys, since their reformation in 2008, has tended to classy, highly produced rock formulations, displaying deep love of Bowie in particular. But last year's mainly acoustic solo album Out There by leader Dr Robert (aka Robert Howard) was very different: a loose, dreamy, sunshiney thing, full of Donovan-style meditative whimsy, sounding as if it constantly wanted to cut loose into extended flutes'n'bongoes jams. It suggested a man very much at ease with himself. And while this album is not quite so, uh, out there, that groove is still very evident.

And groove is the operative word. As well as being rooted in contemporary soul, The Blow Monkeys were early adopters of house and Balearic music, and here, there's an underlying funkiness that elevates it beyond what usually happens when middle-aged guys take on retro elements. So while Bowie is here, still, as are Dylan, Van Morrison and early Springsteen, so is deep understanding of Curtis Mayfield and Bill Withers, too. And the sunshine of Far Out is here too: Howard's introspection is fascinating in its blending of uncertainty and unabashed contentment, with his voice maturing nicely to add to the richness. As autumn rolls on and the world gets darker, the appeal of this high-class comfort blanket of a record is only likely to increase.

@joemuggs

Watch the video for "Crying for the Moon"

While Bowie is here, still, as are Dylan, Van Morrison and early Springsteen, so is deep understanding of Curtis Mayfield and Bill Withers, too

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