Paul Handyside - Wayward Son (Malady Music)

Paul Handyside – Wayward Son (Malady Music)

Locate the name Paul Handyside and you can almost guarantee that the word hurrah will quickly follow, for Hurrah! – with a capital H and symbolic exclamation mark – was the band that he had once fronted. Photographs of four earnest young men in leather jackets and carefully ripped skinny jeans affirm that this was an altogether different time. But even though Handyside with his magnificent quiff looked and sounded a bit like some indie-Elvis, this was the 80s and the Hurrah! sound was one that drew heavily upon that decade’s often stock-in-trade jingle-jangle pop. But as is often the case critical acclaim was not to be reflected by record sales and 1991 was to hear what would be the band’s last hurrah.

But that did not signal the end of the road for Handyside. He has since hooked up with Martin Stephenson, both recording and touring with his stable mate from their Kitchenware days together; released a couple of albums with the roots-rock trio Bronze; contributed a quite exquisite reading of The Go-Betweens ‘Bachelor Kisses’ for Love Goes On, a tribute album released in 2007 to, and in loving memory of the sadly departed Grant McLennan; and in the same year his début album ‘Future’s Dream’ was finally unveiled.

And now he is back with his second solo album and judging by the picture on the cover of ‘Wayward Son’ and despite his not having achieved any real commercial success in the interim the years look to have been kind to Paul Handyside. He is still sporting a full head of hair and judging by the profile shot he has maintained his matinee-idol looks. Age has similarly failed to wither his talent for ‘Wayward Son’ is a fine record.

It is a mature, confident musical statement from a man who despite the album’s title appears to have reached some sort of uneasy accord with both himself and the world around.  This relative stability should not be mistaken for indolence or indifference as he sings powerfully and passionately about the vagaries of love (‘Love Lies Elsewhere’), the futility of human conflict (‘Glory Bound’ and ‘When The Good Times Roll’), and the ephemeral nature of life (‘Passing Through’). Like Handyside himself, the music may have developed considerably from his 80’s nascence in indie-pop yet he still has a sharp ear for melody and an unerring ability to carry a tune with a voice Bruce Springsteen might have had he been re-located as a child from New Jersey to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

The musical vehicle transporting these tunes has three drivers – Paul Handyside himself on vocals, guitar, piano and harmonium; Rob Tickell, who was also one third of Bronze, on bass, guitar and production duties; and former Hurrah! alumnus Dave Porthouse on melodeon, drums and double bass. Together they steer ‘Wayward Son’ across wide open spaces and along dusty highways signposted folk, roots, rock and country. On this evidence and despite having a career which now spans some 35 years you sense there is still plenty of creative gas left in Handyside’s tank.

Wayward Son is released on 20th January through Malady Music.

Rating: ★★★½☆


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