Let me immediately admit that I find it impossible to be objective about the first Phil Wilson album in twenty years. This is how it should be with art that matters after all, regardless of whether we have had even a small part in its creation.
I suspect, however, that I would find it impossible to be objective even if I had not been involved in some small way (in case you didn’t know I designed the sleeve for the album and this single). Like many others I found Phil’s group The June Brides to be one of the very finest purveyors of post-punk guitar Pop in the early to mid 1980s. Yes, in hindsight they may have had a hand in giving birth to what grew up to be the vile monster of ‘Indie’, but don’t hold that against them. And anyway, how many ‘indie’ groups would cast off their hand-me-down cardigans and opt for Nudie shirts and bootlace ties?
Phil has tested the waters in the past few years, as I am sure you know. His ‘Industrial Strength’ EP for Slumberland nodded to the past with an eye firmly on the future and hinted at what might come. I’ll be honest though and say that fine as it was it did not prepare me for quite how wonderful a full blown album might be. Credit for that surely goes at least in part to Phil’s new group of collaborators. Armed with a battered Pop Art paintbox, a couple of former June Brides come together with a raggedy band of newcomers from the depths of the South West to colour Phil’s songs red with purple flashes. It sounds marvellous.
For me though it’s Phil’s voice and songs that really make ‘God Bless Jim Kennedy’ stand out. There is yet more proof here, if more were needed, that Pop is no longer a young man’s game. Proof too that the Pop of middle-age need not be something tired and weary or nauseatingly nostalgic and irrelevant. It can be witty and moving, insightful and wildly energetic.
‘God Bless Jim Kennedy’ indeed, and God bless Phil Wilson and his band of artful troubadours. Let’s just hope we do not have to wait another twenty years before another album...