An impressive and somewhat personal return...
'Fatherland'

Kele Okereke dropped his last name for the 2010 solo alt-dance solo record, ‘The Boxer’. Making a beeline away from the Bloc Party association, the album was middling in its reception and scope. Now, with a healthy Bloc Party comeback in tow, Kele has re-equipped his last name for a solo album that feels closer to home and, ironically more so than the last, doesn’t pull any punches emotionally.

Instrumentally, the generous helpings of tenor sax, soft electric piano and clarinets give ‘Fatherland’ a depth that warrants further listens once Kele’s rounded melodies and acoustic guitar structures have been dissected.

Between the romance (‘Do U Right’) and the ruin (‘You Keep On Whispering His Name’), sits ‘Capers’. A jolly-good jaunt that’s painfully British in its clean piano stabs and polite cheekiness as Kele smirks “I know I’m punching way out of my league / But we could get into some real fun”. The track is refreshingly earnest in its wonder. That’s not to say that ‘Fatherland’ is anything but sincere — it helps to read every track with the knowledge that Kele is a father now.

The Olly Alexander collaborative track ‘Grounds For Resentment’ is one, a reminder that Alexander’s incredible voice shouldn’t be slept on and two, significant in its use of pronouns. Okereke and Alexander, as two openly gay men, strove to draw attention to the pronouns they use in a track about sexual desire. It’s a creative and personal choice that adds timely fortification to an already deft pop-rock track.

Album highlight ‘Savannah’ centres on a meditative finger-picking riff borrowed from the school of Nick Drake. The percussion is a mix of hollow foot-stomps and shuffling tambourine manoeuvres. The crux and emotional core of ‘Fatherland’ is found in one profound, simple line that shines above the rest in this love letter to his daughter. Kele sings with worldly sincerity: “If there’s one lesson, this life has taught / Open your heart, be kind”. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and that can be said of a lot of ‘Fatherland’.

7/10

Words: Will Butler

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