Kele Okereke revamps his solo career with Fatherland

FatherlandBack in 2010, Bloc Party frontman Kele started his solo career with The Boxer,  a hit-and-miss electronic album which reinforced on-going suspicions about him not feeling entirely comfortable anymore with the angular indie rock sound that once made him and his band famous. Perhaps it was Bloc Party’s success with their 2007 new-wavey single “Flux” that made Kele think that he could pull off that kind of thing on a regular basis. He put out two more solo releases after The Boxer, both of them being relatively consistent efforts that nevertheless went under the radar at the time.

And now, after notoriously revamping Bloc Party in 2016 with a new line-up and sound, he’s ready to do the same thing with his solo career. To start with, he’s begun to use his surname as his artistic moniker - which means that, strangely enough, he now has two different solo profiles in streaming sites. But the most impacting surprise about this new stage in his career is that, after apparently dismissing it for a large chunk of his solo stuff, the guitar is back. And even more surprisingly, he’s now softly singing while he strums his acoustic guitar, not writing indie rock anthems with a Telecaster in his hands. So now we’ve got Kele, the dance music singer, and Kele Okereke, the introspective singer-songwriter. Fatherland is the latter’s first album and it represents such a huge shift in Okereke’s musical direction that it can come off as something quite adventurous even if it is really yet another iteration of the old 'rock singer goes folk' cliché.

Liking the sound of Fatherland? Kele Okereke is touring the UK in October 2017!

After a 40-second instrumental introduction, lead single “Streets Been Talkin’” shows the new Kele at the top of his game. Starting off with an incredibly simple chord progression and a sort of nursery-rhyme melody, it soon leads to a refreshing chorus that is convincingly decorated with light percussion and quasi-orchestral arrangements. And that is mostly what you’re getting with Fatherland - 45 minutes of perfectly executed folk-pop music that ranges between the humdrum and the perfectly satisfying. For the most part, this new direction seems to suit Kele better than the electronically-tinged feel of his previous releases. The warm tones of his voice can make otherwise trite songs like “Capers” sound quite good - in fact, his vocals hadn't been this good in years.

Kele isn’t exactly on his own in this new adventure, though. He recruited Olly Alexander from Years & Years to duet with him in album-highlight “Grounds for Resentment”, an organ-led pop song that could have easily slid into the charts. It’s one of the album’s cheesiest songs, but it’s also one of its catchiest and most appealing at first listen. British soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae features in “Versions of Us”, an arpeggiated, starry-eyed ballad that seems to have been taken straight out of Elliott Smith’s songbook.

For the most part, Fatherland sees Kele trying to re-find his feet as an artist. It’s probably a better album than his previous solo stuff and than Bloc Party’s last two records, so it might be the first spark of a fire that is starting to take off again. But like many other solo releases by a rock singer who decides to go folk, Fatherland is an album that can easily be enjoyed by everyone but truly loved only by the most dedicated of fans.

Release: 20th October 2017, Ada


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