This debut from That Joe Payne seems to have been a long time coming. Since leaving The Enid, there have been singles and EPs previewing songs, teasing us almost, and he has been playing some of this material for some time, but at last we have the finished album. It was worth the wait. We have a set of diverse songs which have been honed over time, and finally we can hear them in the context of an album.
So what do we have? Well, first and foremost, The Voice. The five octave range pipes we first heard in operatic style on Invicta are as angelic and impossibly perfect as ever. The album intro piece The Thing About Me Is shimmers in with Max Read’s massed choir effects, some languid guitar from Nikitas Kissonas, and The Voice floating above it all, high above the clouds. It’s a very Enid sounding intro, but don’t let that fool you. It was written for the live show rather than the album, but it works well as a serene scene-setting intro, and is in total contrast to the title track, with its mechanical beat, clashing percussion and robotic voices. When you’re expecting the angelic choirboy, the surprise is quite shocking, and not dissimilar to hearing Neil Young’s Trans for the first time, where he insisted on using a Vocoder for much of the album. Lyrically, it’s Payne’s self-deprecating humour which shines through; “He’s a Payne by name, by nature, alright!” Musically, it’s more complex than it first seems. Aside from the very modern and direct pop sound, there are a plethora of details to enjoy, layers of sound and odd time changes. “Wait, I wanna dance in 7/8”, says Joe, and in my mind’s eye, he does just that.
And if you thought this slice of pop-up humour was going to be a one off, it isn’t, as Nice Boy follows with hardly a pause for breath. It’s a disco romp but with some lovely crunchy guitar chords from Duncan McLaughlan. Again, a simple piece of humorous pop, but with much more going on than you realise on first listen. It perhaps lacks the visual sparkle of the live show, but is nonetheless a dazzling dalliance. A complete change of mood follows with In My Head, a brilliant introspective look at some of Joe’s demons, and an atmosphere that oddly reminds me of Kate Bush’s The Man with the Child in his Eyes. This slips neatly into another stand-out, the very pertinent What is the World Coming To. A familiar song if you’ve heard the EP which came out a couple of years ago, yet somehow sounding fresh in its new surroundings, it could be a soundtrack to the strange times we have all lived through recently; a warning perhaps, if anyone still needs one? But on closer inspection, it is actually a song relating the difficulties of growing up and coming to terms with his sexuality.
In contrast, another highlight follows with the gorgeous piece of cabaret which is Love (Not The Same), a bluesy duet with the wonderful Ms Amy Birks. Both show just how explosive their voices can be, but Joe takes the limelight with a terrific performance which is pure entertainment. Next, I Need A Change was his first single as That Joe Payne, written in the midst of mental turmoil, and is a moving cry for help. It’s a finely crafted piece in the classic singer/songwriter style, and could easily have been written by Elton in his early creative years, it’s that good. The album closes with another personal piece, but with a hint of optimism befitting the last song, End of the Tunnel gives a glimmer of hope for better times ahead, and is another lush ballad and a great song to bow out on.
So it’s an album which starts out sounding like The Enid, careers headlong into modern pop and techno beats and ends up with some brooding introspection tied up in bows with choirs of angels, and through it all The Voice rises to new heights. It’s not over-long, it’s not overly proggy, but it’s a technicolour statement of intent. That Joe Payne has talent, he’s a born entertainer, and he’s coming for ya.
01. The Thing About Me Is (2:54)
02. By Name. By Nature. (5:36)
03. Nice Boy (3:38)
04. In My Head (3:20)
05. What Is The World Coming To (5:49)
06. Love (Not The Same) (6:35)
07. I Need A Change (8:23)
08. End Of The Tunnel (6:34)
~ Bonus tracks (CD only):
09. Music For A While (6:34)
10. Moonlit Love (6:31)
Total Time – 43:57
That Joe Payne – Vocals, Choir, Piano, Strings, Programming
Max Read – Bass (track 1), Sampled Vocals, Choir, Programming
Duncan McLaughlan – Guitar (tracks 2,3,5,6 & 7), Bass (track 6)
Nicholas Willes – Drums, Bass (tracks 5 & 7)
Lisa Martin – Drums (tracks 1,2 & 7)
Nikitas Kissonas – Guitar (track 1)
Ms Amy Birks – Vocals (track 6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 7th August 2020