After more than half a decade in the spotlight as Bloc Party’s frontman, Kele Okereke has been undergoing a rebirth. He’s taken an indefinite hiatus from the band, and he looks like he starts each day by bench-pressing a Shetland pony.
So with this solo debut, is he still Kele from the Bloc? Not quite. With Spank Rock’s XXXChange on production duties, the first half of the album thrums with the gritty, grime-ish synth bass of ‘Wearing My Rolex’-alike first single ‘Tenderoni’. The sped-up vocal and crisp hi-hat of ‘On the Lam’ is like 21st century garage. ‘Rise’ morphs from a cosmic disco-tinged xylophone ballad into a cavernous, gothy piece of jerky, electro two-step. And it’s very slick.
But then it all gets a bit sensitive. ‘Everything You Wanted’ is a modern twist on ’80s piano-pop (replete with Freddie Mercury-ish ‘day-oh!’ yelps and ‘Orinoco Flow’-style backing choir). ‘New Rules’ is all pizzicato strings and understated harmonies. Throughout, lyrics are about self discovery and self belief (‘There’s nothing to prove…’, ‘You are stronger than you think’, etc).
But despite a slight feel of Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’ at points, Okereke’s heartfelt vocals pull you into his journey enough to make it touching rather than twee. Just. A nice coming-of-age album.