Album Review: Nick J.D. Hodgson – Tell Your Friends

TelL Your Friends

Sometimes breaking up isn’t hard to do, it’s just part of a process.

Former Kaiser Chief Nick Hodgson had been a pivotal character in the phenomenal success of the band’s first two albums, but by 2011 their voracious touring cycle, amongst other things, had left him jaded and bereft of inspiration.

What happened next came to many outsiders as a surprise, but after squaring a twelve-month notice period with people he knew would always remain as more than just acquaintances, the man responsible for mainstays of the indie club night, I Predict A Riot and Ruby, announced he was leaving.

Far from taking a full sabbatical, the man who’d made the Chiefs a ’24 hours a day, 365 days a year’ commitment then quickly settled into writing songs for, amongst others, John Newman, Hurts and Ratboy, but eventually the cut throat nature of freelancing and its working by committee ethos convinced him it was time to experiment with working for a new client: his truly.

Home recorded and co-produced with Depeche Mode and Ian Brown collaborator Dave McCracken (they met on the judging panel of the Ivor Novello awards) Tell Your Friends is just about as solo an album as you can get, one on which the former drummer plays virtually all the instruments, many of which he notes were vintage items salvaged from the 1970s.

Making a record so indelibly all your own work is a measured risk, not least because of where the buck stops, but also because lazy comparisons are the basic currency of criticism. The latter can’t be avoided, but wisely mitigating Hodgson has played to his strengths, choosing to treat subjects with an intimacy which can evade the Chiefs’ more technicolour world; Thank You, written on his sickbed whilst waiting for an email that never arrived, is typical of the outward-facing lyrics, be they sardonic or heartfelt.

This patchwork quilt of emotions is complemented with music short on modern trickery; the retro scrabbling guitar and angelic keys of Tomorrow I Love You owe a little to The Coral, whilst closer Don’t Forget To Go To Sleep basks in the glossy psychedelia of Tame Impala, fellow admirers of the last century’s less cut and paste studio values.

It would be unreasonable, of course, to turn his back on the past completely; Tell Your Friends has more than enough identity of its own to convince skeptics that Hodgson has made a decisive step forward through it, but the clever phrasing of I Love The Way Your Mind Works would undoubtedly also work for his old playmates, whilst in the off the cuff vernacular they knew long standing fans will grin wryly as he manages to rhyme ‘ace’ on the breezy pop with the Honest Face of the title.

In a sense this is just another token of the healing process which the singer has been through to get from there to here – on opener RSVP he acridly sketches out the world of a jobbing writer – whilst on Suitable these troubles seem behind him, the pedestrian, almost country backing a gentle waltz around a room with a true love rediscovered.

With the weight of expectation someone else’s problem, Hodgson’s intent for Tell Your Friends was clear: “I wanted to sing about love and fear and memory and the future and everything that was personal.”

In every way then, it’s a break up album, not from his old band but from the scramble of what followed that act, an I Will Survive for everyone who made the right decisions but along the way has been worried that they’d taken a wrong turn.

Friends old and new will be proud.

(Andy Peterson)

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