Let's talk about denial.Let's talk about self-awareness.Let's talk about romantic idealism.And let's talk about pop music.Let's talk about Terry Hall and his strange relationship with all of these things: about his ability to create life-affirming pop music and about the fact that his exceptional gift was recognised by a long line of his peers before, finally, Terry Hall could no longer ignore it either.Let's talk about the album where the penny finally dropped.A record which believes in the dream of perfect love despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.Let's talk about 'Home', the first solo album by Terry Hall. Twenty-six years have elapsed since the original release of 'Home', but this Record Store Day sees its long overdue debut on vinyl.It might have been the first album which saw Hall step forward from a group identity, but 'Home' was Hall's ninth in various guises since the emergence of The Specials' self-titled LP in 1979.It had taken Hall a while to find his feet as a songwriter.With Jerry Dammers so prolific in that regard, Hall found himself in a strange position at the end of that group's collective lifetime.The Specials had made him a pop star, but he didn't feel like one.By the release of Fun Boy Three's second album 'Missing' (1983), the competition was Wham!, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club.Nothing wrong with any of those, but Hall would see himself staring back from the pages of a magazine alongside all the aforementioned names and experience what he called "a total cognitive disconnection". 'Home', then, was the culmination of a long process which saw Terry Hall separate his lack of love for the job of pop star from his adoration for pop itself.In solving that conundrum, it sounds like a weight has been lifted from Hall.Like a code has finally been cracked.Somehow emblematic of that process is the album's lead single 'Forever J', a song that Hall had started writing about his wife Jeannette almost a decade previously, but only finally came together when Hall presented it to the album's producer Ian Broudie (The Lightning Seeds) as the sessions got under way.Alloyed to a disarmingly beautiful chorus, this ticker-tape flurry of unguarded intimacies might just be the most perfect pop song of an era that wasn't exactly lacking in competition - and although it didn't crack the top 40 at the time, it cemented the affection in which an emerging generation of proficient popsmiths held him: Jarvis Cocker did his own remix of the song and Damon Albarn sang Hall's praises at every opportunity.In commencing the record, 'Forever J' sets the tone for what follows on the remainder of 'Home'.Yes, it's a solo album, but the engine of these performances is a stellar "house" band comprised of Craig Gannon (The Smiths, Aztec Camera, The Bluebells), Les Pattinson (Echo & The Bunnymen) and Chris Sharrock (The Icicle Works, The La's). This illustrious roll call is one that extends to the songwriters with whom Hall collaborated on the record.Co-written by Nick Heyward, 'What's Wrong With Joy' is a synergy of seeming incompatible components: its life-affirming power pop livery freighting a cargo of self-doubt ("I've got a bag full of promises I can't keep/And a hundred reasons why I don't sleep") and good intentions ("All I wanna do is make your dreams come true") to the affections of anyone who hears it.Andy Partridge steps forward to share the credit on 'Moon On Your Dress" and 'I Drew A Lemon': the latter a rebuke to the man who will never love her the way our lyrical protagonist pledges to; the former a longtime favourite among fans of both Hall and XTC for the sanguine self-deprecations that manage to captures something of both artists' relationship to the world around them. And, of course, if you have Ian Broudie manning the console, it would be obtuse not to write a song or two together.With a friendship dating back to the early days of The Specials (the young Broudie saw Hall's pre-Specials outfit The Coventry Automatics open for The Clash in 1978) the measure of the pair's chemistry stretches beyond Broudie's production role to encompass two of the album's indisputable highlights.Featuring the unforgettable couplet, "If ifs and ands were pots and pans, you'd be a kitchen", 'You' sees its protagonist trying to persuade his subject to see in him what he sees in her.The other Broudie co-write on 'Home' will need no introduction to most pop fans.'Sense' is the song which gave its name to The Lightning Seeds' second album, giving the group their third top 40 hit in 1992.The version sung here by Hall though benefits from the Sharrock's pugnacious Keith Moon-isms and, of course, the buccaneering fretboard work of Craig Gannon. It's Gannon, too, whose fingerprints can be found on a clutch of other songs which give a little more back with each repeated play.'Home' may have emerged in the era that saw the term 'Britpop' enter the cultural lexicon, but there's a fragrant melodic classicism at the heart of Gannon and Hall's collaborations that can also be found in the work of Hall's "other" 80s songwriting vehicle The Colour Field, with its nods to French chanson.It's there on 'Forever J' and it's also abundant on Hall/Gannon originals like 'No No No' and 'I Don't Got You'. And yet, for all of that, there's something about Hall's voice that is, to quote the latter song, "as English as the weather".You can hear it all over 'Home', and it works both to the advantage of this album and the listener.Like the expression of the man staring at you on the sleeve, there's an outward sense of reserve in these performances which belies the lyrical tensions hinted at in many of its songs.Hall's marriage was coming to an end when 'Home' was recorded, but these songs are manifestly the work of someone who still believes in happy ever after.Just about.They're also the work of someone who has come to an accommodation with his relationship to pop.To coin a neologism, you might say that this was the record where our hero finally learned to "own it".And if your love of great pop mirrors that of Terry Hall, 'Home' is a record you might also consider owning.
RSD Drop August
Release Date: 29 Aug 2020