Kid Harpoon – ‘Once’ – Album Review

Shooting for the mainstream, purists of Kid Harpoon will be left a little perturbed and unsettled by his debut album ‘Once’. After the gutsy verve and poetic verses of his early EPs and singles, many hopes were pegged on Chatham’s Tom Hull as being a long-waited troubadour with integrity and generational significance. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I panicked and pinned the tail on the wrong donkey, but I would hate to think that people would look back on this decade and pick the likes of James Blunt or Robbie Williams as its zeitgeist singer/songwriters.

The problem is, Kid Harpoon is a changed man. He is no longer the 26-year-old with a rasping vocal, rag and bone guitar and a pocket full of dream; he is a man with an album deal, huge production and celebrity friends to boot. (In a recent interview he mentioned with a student-like glee as to having had lunch with (name drop) David Hasselhoff whilst re-recording his album in LA). The problem is, Kid Harpoon has gone pop.

Opener ‘Stealing Cars’ curb-crawls around pop’s grubby back alleys with a window down and a simpering grin on display, enticing vacuous whores into the back seat; the problem lies when this lady of the night is then hammered for three-minutes with all manner of teeth clenching key changes for his first single release. Again, the likes of ‘Back From Beyond’, ‘Burnt Down House’ and ‘Flowers By The Shore’ (now a pulpy acoustic number with dribbling piano and wet guitar lead) fall from the idiosyncratic graces and courtship of his earlier efforts with something that feels a little soulless and vacuum-formed.

Produced by Trevor Horn – Grammy Award winner for Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ – has had a massive influence upon the grandeur of this record. At times, the pair’s work is a substantial effort: ‘Colours’ is bolstered with a symphony of strings what lifts the chorus and its lyrical rhetoric to a new high; ‘Hold On’ cavorts with an acoustic psychedelia that sweeps the listener away with an accoutrement of rousing instruments that have been layered with dextrous care; the piano-led theatrics of ‘Death of a Rose’ and the nostalgia-laced lullaby of ‘Childish Dreaming’ on some level manage to salvage this often Toploader-bland punt at for sales success.

LA, the home of Hollywood, can ravage a man’s soul. Lucid thought is distracted by the glitz and the glamour of a plastic society where everything is made to sell – even the smiles. Tom Hull has been left incredibly effected by his deracination and transparently so. In his attempt to further his humble career, he has made a massive pitch at pre-packaged, radio-friendly tunes that on the odd occasion can endear, but often as not, are wholeheartedly disenchanting and removed from what we first fell in over with. His soul.

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