Erstwhile Kaiser Chief Nick Hodgson has spent the past five years penning songs for the likes of Mark Ronson and Shirley Bassey, basking in being out of the limelight and no longer having to endure a punishing touring schedule as part of one of the UK’s most successful indie bands. The 40-year-old spent much of his 20s and 30s perched on a drum stool, while singing and drumming along to hits like “Ruby” and “I Predict a Riot”.
Hodgson’s role in the Kaiser Chiefs was unique in that he wasn’t the traditional drummer in the background. The Leeds native was the principal songwriter for the band, and he commanded attention as he sang along with vocals to match those of frontman Ricky Wilson, like on the zany and infectiously catchy “Good Days Bad Days”. Tell Your Friends marks Hodgson’s first deliberate step out of creating music by committee, both as a drummer and a songwriter-for-hire.
The radio-friendly album evokes a summer breeze carrying the sound of 70s psychedelic nostalgia. One of the most apparent things on TYF is that – perhaps consciously – there are no big hits and the album progresses at a leisurely pace.
Hodgson’s former band crafted songs that that would hit you over the head with their hook-laden melodies, and would inhabit your brain for days (case in point – you probably still have the melody of “Ruby” stuck in your head since it was mentioned three paragraphs ago…). On TYF, Hodgson takes a more subtle approach and indulges in a slower build-up on most of the album’s tracks. The 10-track album manages to avoid overtly anthemic songs, yet still bristles with ambition.
The dreamy strains of “Suitable” are couched in woozy, Beatle-esque harmonies and melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place in your grandfather’s record collection. “I Love the Way Your Mind Works” is a modern homage to 70s psychedelia filled with crisp guitar riffs as Hodgson enthusiastically intones, “And it feels like we could fly away/And it feels like we could borrow time”. The piano-filled balladry on “Iceberg” offers a sweet – if a little out-of-place with the momentum of the rest of album – curve ball which allows Hodgson to flex his genre-spanning musical ability.
The jaunty “My Own American Dream” struts confidently through a vista of hand-clapping and uplifting harmonies, while closer “Don’t Forget to Go to Sleep” tackles the pervading presence of technology in our lives (“Why do I always refresh the page? I could still be sitting here at three times my age”) and how basic elements of existence, like sleeping, are becoming a secondary presence in our lives. It’s a timely track that rounds off an album that mainly points back to Hodgson’s older influences.
On TYF Hodgson has, perhaps for the first time in his career, made an album exactly how he wanted to without having to carry the weight of expectation that comes with pitching songs or being in the Kaiser Chiefs. The result is a creative album that wears its influences on its sleeve, without mimicking them in a way that makes every song sound familiar. It’s clear that this is exactly the sort of album Hodgson wanted to make, and while it might not be packed with chart-toppers this doesn't detract from the fact that the album is an enjoyable listen from a musician who refuses to be pigeonholed.
7.5 / 10
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