“Play loud and whilst intoxicated” is the request on the sleeve. So I did, and, what do you know? There’s something pretty irresistible about Robert James Selby’s first recorded collection of songs, a naïve enthusiasm and sense of fun that carries all before it.
First, you have to get with his voice. Highly reminiscent of early Bolan with it’s high, tremulous tone, Robert James (heck, can I call him Rob, his friends seem to) hits a note, takes a bit of a journey and ends up vaguely in the place he started. It’s singing, Jim… Well, pop music is full of well-loved voices that play fast and loose with the idea of tunefulness and it’s all a question of whether there’s something in the voice that rides above technical restraints. Terry Hall of The Specials always springs to mind in this context, and I always loved to hear his sardonic tone. Well, stick with this album and you’ll end up in love with Rob Selby’s voice; he has that magic something that you can’t put your finger on but, somehow, you’ll almost certainly end up with a smile on your face.
By all accounts this Yorkshire lad now resident in London has a whole stack of songs to his name, many resulting from his travels around Europe. He clearly has a fascination with the great English and French romantic poets, and maybe there’s no coincidence in the snapshots on the album cover where he looks a dead spit for Desire-era Dylan, when the great man was referencing Rimbaud. So, lyrically, he’s looking at life from the point of view of the intoxicated, intoxicating romantic poet, whether he’s following in the Lake District footprints of Coleridge and Wordsworth or drinking in the hedonistic glamour of 21st century Soho. That could all be a bit intensely introspective but this artistic persona is undercut by wonderfully vibrant, joyful pop music. Again very like early Bolan, it’s not hard to hear there’s a pop genius at work here, even without the inclusion of Hyacinth Flowers (available on the website) which is a really strong song. Multi-instrumentalist Matthew Poxon clearly has a huge input to this album, adding some beef to the raw vitality of Rob Selby’s central performance, and somebody made the decision to keep the sound raw and unfinished, which probably adds to the charm. Some songs, such as On The Road (Too Long), sound like demo versions with weird echo and unbalanced instrumental contributions, but, somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter. It certainly left me feeling better about the world, and I don’t think it was just the wine.
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