In “Get up Stand Up” Bob Marley proclaimed “you can’t fool all the people all of the time,” quite rightly referring to modified history books.
Music is like this, usually it’s assertive and orders instruction; but in Phil Cooper’s “Fear Factory,” a track from his forthcoming album “Thoughts and Observations,” he proses about bias media, and sings, “you can fool the people all of the time.”
I beg to differ somewhat, as the freedom of social media exemplifies public awareness and exposes the wrongdoings of the mainstream press. Herein lies the running theme throughout this damn fine album, the introduction title-track clarifies these are merely Phil’s thoughts and observations, “don’t take them as red,” he states he’d prefer it if, “you found your own verdict instead.”
So, absent of Lennon-styled orders to make love and not war, Phil Cooper breezes an air of liberalism and invites you to use your head to make your own mind up. Deep morality from this Trowbridge singer, songwriter and I’d imagine a guitarist who was born with a guitar at his waist. The ethos not only gives this album uniqueness, but also creates a gentle air with no pushy overtones. To the point where on first listen I was drawn to think of Bryan Adam’s Cuts Like a Knife, certainly the upbeat “Shake it up,” personifies this, but it’s provisional.
That initial association was during the washing-up, with kids harassing me to play video games and the tele on in the background. In reassessment of this moreish masterpiece, it bought me round to comparison with Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever or George Harrison’s Cloud Nine, it’s polished to perfection, it’s blustery and easy-on-the-ear rock; definitive driving music. There’s even a song titled “Road Songs;” Phil’s got it covered.
What we have here is local music at its very best. While Road Songs has romantic connotations it’s a rarity on the album, the cliché love theme doesn’t rear its head often, less it remains as one’s personal interruption. “Citizen” offers thoughts on the slyness of human nature, whereas “Face Doesn’t Fit,” relies on finding alternative avenues when things don’t go planned, rather than quitting.
It does what it says on the tin, a bundle of thoughts and observations, but wrapped in sublime melody. Perhaps the wiliest being the gentle “Smokescreen,” observing we “hide the world with our own smokescreen and never face the challenge in between.”
Alternating between acoustic and electric guitars, Phil seems to handle the instrument like it was his baby, owning a plethora of amazing riffs and melody structures that wows once you’re in the album’s realm; and what a enjoyable and graceful place to be it is too!
Thoughts and Observations is released on April 13th, as a download, on CD, vinyl and also has it’s own fanzine with Phil’s doodles and explains some of the thinking behind the song writing, pre-order on Bandcamp and get a bonus tune while you wait.
Prolific, Phil has a selection of previous material on his Bandcamp page or website. Or you can catch him and the Slight Band live, hopefully in his trademark pork pie hat, launching the album at the Lamb in Devizes April 6th, Village Pump in Trowbridge on 7th. Then the 8th sees him down at the seaside, in Portsmouth and Bournemouth, and back here for a gig at the Tupenny in Swindon on 19th and Bath’s St James Street Vaults on the 20th.