Ex Kaiser Chief Nick J.D. Hodgson unveils his take on indie and britpop as he leaps into the risky realm of solo work
Founding member, former drummer and principal songwriter of Kaiser Chiefs already has a fantastic portfolio of hits to his name, including ‘I Predict A Riot’ and ‘Ruby’. Since leaving the band in 2012 he has seen success in writing and producing for other artists, such as Mark Ronson, John Newman, Hurts and Ratboy. A solo career was not something Hodgson was even considering, as he explains: “It was a long time since I’d written a song just for myself… and then I wrote ‘Thank You’”.
After writing ‘Thank You’ in Leeds whilst under the weather, two more tracks followed in the same week in the form of first single ‘Suitable’ and ‘RSVP’, when Nick thought “OK, let’s make this a proper album.”. Impressively, and much like Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), for this debut solo album all instruments were played by himself, aside from one violin, one guitar and one vocal contribution.
Kicking it off with your fairly standard dose of pop rock, ‘RSVP’ opens with accessible acoustic guitars and simplistic guitar work. Whilst that isn’t necessarily a negative, for this particular track which lacks interesting melody, vocal and lyrical work, it needs a special intervention of some form which could have been achieved through better musicianship and risk taking. An unimpressive start and maybe a missed opportunity, however, taking into account all parts were recorded by Nick, he presents a well produced easy listening track with catchy pop sensibilities.
Things start to pick up on ‘Honest Face’, which provides a more upbeat and faster tempo indie punk rhythm, coupled with a three chord piano progression drenched in the holy grail of indie: reverb. Intricate, elegant guitar work and song structure compliment the song, with a middle eight to break it up just before the emotional storm which has been brewing crashes into you. An odd sense of melancholy and happiness oozes from this gem; the juxtaposition channels emotions which aren’t overtly happy or sad, and whether it’s intentional or not, it certainly yields a sublime production.
“I heard Calvin Harris talking about feel-good music, and I was thinking it’s such a good aim. It’s not easy to do feel-good music right. It’s underrated.”
‘Suitable’ is garnished with extremely catchy sing-a-long vocals and a pleasantly addictive stripped down oasis vibe. Capturing uplifting emotion in a feel-good anthem is erroneously conceived as being too easy. Rather, it is the other way round and writing a feel-good song takes more than just playing it in the key of G, as Nick explains: “I heard Calvin Harris talking about feel-good music, and I was thinking it’s such a good aim. It’s not easy to do feel-good music right. It’s underrated.” Written about his wife, ‘Suitable’ hits the nail on the head with its decorous lyrics full of positive energies: “I don’t wanna hear about any other lovers, I don’t wanna mess around underneath the covers, with anyone that isn’t you, cause you’re beautiful, and we’re suitable’.
Two stand out tracks ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Thank You’ showcase outstanding Beatles style vocals, and regardless of their 60’s vibe, the vocals present truly brilliant melody; something that is slowly vanishing off the face of modern music. ‘Iceberg’ takes a slower turn, focusing on minimalism with piano and man working together in perfect harmony. The reverberating background strings may not be a match for Mick Ronson’s work on ‘Life On Mars?’, however, they produce an ecstatic, hair raising, cinematic atmosphere. Perhaps the best track on the record. ‘Thank You’ utilises vocals to send listeners on a journey, with a constant feeling as though they’re leading to a fantasy land that only classic rock seemed to be able to do.
The remainder of the album takes an unfortunate dive into mediocre indie pop energies, such as the ‘Dancing In The Moonlinght-esque chimes of ‘Tomorrow I Love You’, or the trippy “ahh’s” on ‘Feel Better’, providing it with its typically indie swirling vocal jazz backdrop.
Tell Your Friends is set for release on January 26th 2018.