Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Album review: Parenthood has been good for Kele Okereke – but not necessarily for his music

The indie frontman has moved from electro to a folksier direction on becoming a father

Kele Okereke's Fatherland. Courtesy End Records
Kele Okereke's Fatherland. Courtesy End Records

It followed that the first two solo albums from Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke centred around electro-pop, given his day job’s mid-career beat-embellished overtones. Now, with the indie-rockers increasingly introducing pastoral elements to their propulsive indie-rock, Okereke has started to move into a straight-up folk direction.

Fatherland is a grown-up record coloured by, as you might guess from the title, becoming a parent. The world inevitably looks different under such a focus, although shorn of Okereke’s sinewy, paranoid explorations of single life and its pitfalls, his sometimes clumsy lyricism is a little too exposed. Take Capers, which resembles the soundtrack to a PG-rated version of Boardwalk Empire, while idly mentioning interest rates as if discussing mortgage payments is now considered interesting art.

Versions of Us is a rather subtler show of his capabilities, however – the duet with English singer Corinne Bailey Rae is tender and touching. And Portrait has a quiet splendour at its orchestral core that recalls a male take on charismatic American singer-songwriter Regina Spektor.

Fatherland is certainly fingerpicking, but is it good? It is undeniably the sound of a man becoming more comfortable in his own skin, although those who enjoyed the urgency of his past endeavours may feel a little flat.


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