Okay. Where to start? Simon Townshend – younger brother of a certain Pete and son of jazz saxophonist, Cliff – certainly knows what it takes to make an album stand out and that’s very definitely what the remastered version of the 2012 release Looking Out, Looking in does. An invigorating album that kind of strikes a chord on many levels, although some of those may well have been visited before.
The opening track Forever and a Day, is a mixture of symphonic swoops and sprints that has the listener engaged, yet at the same time experiencing something of a deja vu moment. “Wait. Is that … is that the break from The Sea and the Sand? Surely not?!” Not that the similarity ‘damages’ the track. If anything, it sort of makes it stronger. Nevertheless, a game of ‘spot the familiar riff’ ensues which became a little distracting after a while.
Happily, this was really the only time it jumps out as wildly and the remaining 11 tracks are all delightfully crafted. Not least of which being the taut, enigmatic and thoroughly catchy title track. It’s steady rhythm pulses like one of those strobe things that so enthralled disco crowds back in the day; its Spanish acoustic beat underscoring the beautifully rounded lyrics.
Something New – even down to Townshend’s vocal style, which is all back-of-the-throat rasping on this track – can’t help but remind you of Elvis Costello in his heyday, whereas Electric Friend is as close to being out of Marc Bolan’s stable as is possible. A sweet little mystery of a song that is polished and cool and reflective.
See where I’m going with this? It’s a dilemma. I really like Looking Out, Looking In. The thing is I know exactly why I like it so much. Ultimately because it has all the familiarity of old friends popping around for beer after they’ve been back packing for three years while you, you know, have sort of settled down, got married and had kids while they’ve been gone!
You don’t really want to sit and look through their millions of snaps for hours on end. You want to go to the pub, get plastered, smoke something a little stronger than Golden Virginia and go on new adventures, right? The thing is, your newly returned mates are all adventured out it seems!
There are some sit up and take notice moments though. The acoustic version of She Asked Me features as a bonus track with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder supplying a backing vocal and Pino Palladino – the Welsh Wizard who has been asked to achieve the impossible and replace John Entwhistle in the touring version of The Who – kindly lends a highly skilled hand with the bass line. All of which adds depth and vibrancy that’s strangely missing in the original, which also features. Vedder also takes the vocals to new highs on another bonus track, I’m The Answer, which is arguably the strongest track on the entire album.
All in all, then, Looking Out, Looking In is, well, nice. An album to pop on when you’ve come back from the pub a bit later – but not by too much – than you’d planned.
Forever And A Day
Looking Out Looking In
She Asked Me
There’s A Girl
Bed of Roses
I’m The Answer
(Bonus Track: feat. Eddie Vedder)
She Asked Me
(Bonus Track: alt version featuring Eddie Vedder)
Looking Out, Looking In
Label: Stir Records
14 Oct. 2016