In the manner of a younger Ian Brown, McClure announced his ‘retirement’ a year ago, his music career seemingly over almost before it had begun. The feeling was that he was “like a sore thumb in a piranha pool in this industry”.
Reactions were mixed to say the least, and though he had touched on some pertinent points with his reasoning, most people knew he couldn’t possibly follow through with his threat.
That’s because, whether you agree or not, anybody able to achieve the musical versatility McClure, Laura Manuel and co. did in debut album The State Of Things was ever going to be able to walk away that easily.
At the time of that statement this second album was already in the bag, and it’s hard to find evidence of the brewing dissatisfaction. Instead McClure returns to the same grounds of that predecessor, blending music of street and club with confidence and flair.
Some of his lyrical asides do however prove telling in hindsight. “You’re free to do as we tell you” goes the strangely unfeeling chorus of Hidden Persuaders, which could be all about record company politics. No Soap In A War could also be interpreted similarly, though it finds hidden strengh even through the barren lyric, “I can’t sleep in this bed with you any more”.
Elswhere McClure and co build on their aptitude for a good groove, a groove that has its roots in Manchester but, as with the brassy Silence Is Talking, adds more than a dash of the London street. The big choruses, however, are less in evidence – there’s no uprising such as that glimpsed through Open Your Window, no hidden strength that powered Heavyweight Champion Of The World.
Despite this the sentiments on songs such as No Soap In A Dirty War are strong. Only Professor Pickles sounds completely out of place, an awkward waltz that tries to stride forward with jaunty steps, but keeps losing its footing in a pothole. To rescue this McClure follows with the brief but empty balladry of Long Long Time.
In the final reckoning, a solid album is raised a bar by its direct communication, illustrated by the closing Hard Time For Dreamers. There are no frills here, just straightforward emoting and storytelling that the man on the street can relate to. With Manuel not as evident the vocals are undeniably stronger though more intraverted, as if McClure does his thinking a bit more through his music nowadays. It suits him.