KEEF BAKER: Pen Fifteen/Light City 2xCD Hymen Records
It was always going to be interesting as to what Mr Baker would fire back with after the mightily impressive ‘Redeye’, and yet again he never fails to surprise with ‘Pen Fifteen’ (just think about that title for a second) and the accompanying sparring partner ‘Light City’.
Opener, the excellent ‘Getting Older’ shows a dramatic change of direction, but if you know Keef it isn’t something that you wouldn’t expect from him at all; whilst certainly being a song I could probably relate to lyrically it also has a definitive sludge rock element to it whilst dragging on a subtle melancholy which doesn’t overstate itself too much. Keef has always been known for his impressive hooks and while this avoids a lot of that, the opening track still manages to have the same effect and that’s impressive enough for me.
‘Dead End’ is where the big changes happen; coming across something like a slightly more melodic Godflesh with guitar riffs wrapped in treacle and crushing drum structures, that pretty much pencil in the fact that Keef has made an album for himself above all else, without fear of alienating previous listeners. Couple this with numbers such as ‘The East is Not the Enemy’, which wouldn’t have been out of place on the debut ‘VAST’ album and you almost can see him sticking the middle finger up and conventional musical fraternities everywhere; indeed it’s not until ‘Sailing the Goat Sea’ that everything flows back to previous styles that we are accustomed to and thematically everything changes in this direction for the next few songs, up towards the final couple of tracks right up to when ‘Sugar Daddy for Shemale’ goes all hardcore on us.
Onto disc two, an entirely live set of new tracks created on Ableton, and is effectively one huge song split down into 12 pieces with no break whatsoever and concentrates on beats a plenty rolling around at a frantic pace, with hardly any let up at all.
There are moments on ‘Light City’ that the casual Baker fan can grab onto such as ‘Aeronautics’ which are pretty much excellent tracks on their own; I think I understand the concept behind this second disc; the latter half of it is fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable, but it did take a while to get to that point; I am wondering just how often this disc will get taken out of the tray for aural consumption. Got to hand it to him though, it certainly adds up on the value for money stakes even if I found the first half a little too self indulgent; but then I guess all music is and all musicians are.
All in all though as a whole this double package is like a breath of fresh air; genuinely brave and bold and as brash as I would have expected and he has to be commended for this as a statement. This release will undoubtedly have the genuine Baker fans out there relishing practically every second as he further displays the level of musical talent he has in his arsenal.