Alternative music reviews

October 30, 2008

We Are Not Other People by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

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We are Not Other PeopleSometimes there’s an assumption that Rock/Pop music can only be made by good looking young people with tuneful voices, when the truth is most are not worthy of cleaning Mark E Smith’s toilet seat. A lot of people will find it astonishing that Paul Hawkins is allowed to make records with a nasal whine that hits few notes. But, the truth is that he is one of the few original voices in music today and what’s more…he even writes about Real Life (or something pretty close to it).

There is an honesty about Paul Hawkins’ songwriting that marks him out as different. While earnest singer/songwriters write songs that show how sensitive and intelligent they are, Paul almost revels in portraying himself in a harsh light and is not afraid of appearing a complete arsehole. It was an approach used by Patrik Fitzgerald back in Punk times. There are musical parallels with Punk in songs like There Ain’t No Carrot, There Ain’t No Stick but mostly it is in the in-your-face vocals and fearless lyrics that the Punk spirit continues. As an album, We Are Not Other People is uneven and can annoy, amuse or fascinate at different times – but it just won’t allow itself to be treated as background.

I Had A Friend In Sarah Vincent is a near ten minute song about murder and betrayal set in the early years of the 20th Century. Throwing in the claustrophobia of village life, animal passion, unrequited love, and jealousy, Paul Hawkins leads you into a story that ends in a hanging, like all good stories do…

I Had A Friend In Sarah Vincent by Paul Hawkins

I Had A Friend In Sarah Vincent by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences (clip)

On The Battle Is Over Paul comes right up to date and sings about a soldier returning from a war in foreign lands. Problem is his wife won’t have him back. The song contains some great male:female duelling vocals – courtesy of Diana De Cabarrus from Candythief – with lines like “I went and fought a war for you” vs “Well I never, ever asked you to” and “I defended my country in it’s hour of need” vs “It was hardly on its knees”.

The Battle Is Over by Paul Hawkins

The Battle Is Over by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences (clip)

Big Dave described this track as “like Jilted John trying to do Nick Cave with a backing by the Invisible Girls”. I think he meant it as a criticism – but I’m quite happy with that as a description of Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences.

Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

September 23, 2008

I Fell In Love With A Moment In Time by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

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I was first alerted to a particular crime against the art of songwriting by Jon Noble. It was in You’re Beautiful by James Blunt (that perverts and stalkers’ hymn). He talks about this girl he sees on the Tube and then he says “I’ve got a plan”. But then the song continues with no more mention of this plan – what was going on? I did later on hear an interview with the woman who was brought in to help finish/tidy up the song and she admitted that it all ended up a bit disjointed. I just wonder at a songwriter who allows other people to finish off their songs

If I’m talking about real songwriters, on the Paul Hawkins debut album We Are Not Other People there’s a track that covers similar territory. “For just one moment I was in love and I never ever knew her name,” he sings. How lovely and romantic – his main worry is that if he did meet her again then his expectations would be too high.

But wait a minute, this is Paul Hawkins! Surely it can’t be so simple and then in the final verse he reveals that it is the “the image of her kneeling over me” that he holds onto. So there he was lying in the gutter pissed or stoned or fitting and she came to help him. Now that is a tableau more fitting to a man of such unique talents as our Paul.

I Fell In Love With A Moment In Time by Paul Hawkins

I Fell In Love With A Moment In Time by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences (clip)

Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

June 13, 2008

A Night With Paul Hawkins

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It’s been a very musical night. I signed up to Napster (the subscription service) and listened again to some Sonic Youth, Birthday Party, and Lydia Lunch. But I soon got bored with listening to lost classics of my favourite bands of yesteryear. I then set out to find Win A Night Out With A Well Known Paranoiac by Barry Andrews (once of XTC). This was a brilliant song I heard on the John Peel show but never managed to get hold of. Obviously Napster didn’t have it but I did find a second-hand record shop on the web that had a copy so hopefully they will reply to my email about it. I feel I can’t live much longer without the tale of the man who is persecuted but suddenly realises it is all a dream…but then

I’m really in a hospital bed. There is a smell of formaldehyde in the air, and a couple of doctors with swastikas on their arm are doing something to the brain of a sheep and in the corner is a huge zinc bath containing some sort of reptile and the nurse is saying “be a brave boy and drink it all up”. And I realise I can’t feel me legs and the shape in the bed isn’t my shape at all and I wanna cry out but I can only bleat

Barry Andrews

Win A Night Out With A Well-Known Paranoic by Barry Andrews

That lead me to further investigate Paul Hawkins – a man whose strange stories can evoke that same sort of paranoia. What I found was a bunch of YouTube videos that entertained me for the night. I saw a story of infidelity and dogs (A Bigger Bone), a desperate cry for love (Evil Thoughts), and why am I alone since I am so nice (I Believe In Karma).

The highlight for me was a live performance of one of the tracks from the single released this week: Gentleman on Crutches. There is nobody, I repeat, nobody who suits a hospital gown so much as this man. I can’t think of anything else to say that will more compliment him.

April 29, 2008

I Believe in Karma by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

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I Believe In KarmaThis is the second release I have been sent by Jezus Factory Records featuring Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences. It’s now sinking in that there is a maverick talent on the loose and if he’s coming to a town near you then look out – most people will want to run away but a select few will revel in this chaotic ranting (me included).

I Believe In Karma

I Believe In Karma (clip) by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

For me it’s that moment when Paul Hawkins sings “I can’t even remember how the next line goes, La La LaLa La La La” that makes this song (like that wonderful moment in School’s Out when Alice sings “I can’t even think of a word that rhymes”). The other track on the promo is the slower, more considered My Darling Frankenstein. It’s a tale of a man who has built a perfect woman (or monster as others call her) to reproduce the best of previous girlfriends such as ‘I see Serena in your movements, I see Sophie in your eyes, you’ve the same expression Claire once had when I used to tell her lies’. A twisted, funny, and perverted solution to the pain of lost love.

I won’t be lazy and just pick on the influences mentioned on MySpace – comparisons with a current figure like Nick Cave just don’t explain much. At times I think it sounds like an angry John Otway, but really the vehemence in the vocal and musical delivery is more like the sort of thing I could imagine the late, great Alex Harvey doing if he had grown up listening to Punk.

Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences