Album Reviews

Paul Steel – April and I

(LabelName) UK release date: 5 March 2007

It seems de rigueur to write “Beach Boys obsessed” every time Paul Steel is mentioned. As soon as the first soft chords of April & I slip from your speakers, it is confirmed beyond all doubt by his multi-tracked vocals on the second track, April, which tells us how he “closed my eyes and summoned up a girl named April” to help him through the dark, moody days of adolescence.

There are ‘oo-wee-oooos’ and everything, just like stepping back to 1965. It’s even under 30 minutes, like so many early pop albums. The ten tracks on this concept album melt into each other, musical motifs recurring and reflecting each other, making it hard to distinguish where the division between some tracks lies.

The structure is very much like a musical, with major and minor variations of the same tunes, and transitional passages between them, but all delivered as one breathless burst. And like many musicals it incorporates ‘dumbed down’ versions of several popular musical forms, and a varied selection of subjects, from school bullies to unrequited love to smoking crack.

Honkin’ (On My Crackpipe) features the most bizarre squeaky vocals and bad impersonation of a brass section – the end result is the sort of unlikely juxtaposition of musical form and subject matter they used to make up on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Unfortunately April & I only really functions as a novelty album. It’s not as good as the Beach Boys’ sublime, multi-layered pop (no surprise there), but as an oddity its priceless.

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Paul Steel – April and I