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Kele Okereke - Fatherland (Album Review)

Wednesday, 18 October 2017 Written by Helen Payne

Kele Okereke is well known as the talented, cool yet surprisingly shy Londoner who fronts Bloc Party - an indie band that was always a bit more jagged round the edges than their contemporaries.

Since going solo he’s released several lo-fi dance records as Kele - among them ‘The Boxer’, his debut, and 2014’s ‘Trick’ - that are definitely more suited to a club at 2am than an indie kid’s raucous house party. It was an unexpected change of direction for existing Bloc Party fans, but the fire was still there. 

Three years and the birth of his daughter later, Okereke has returned with new material under his full name, a hint at the more vulnerable side shown on ‘Fatherland’. Here, the full Kele is meant to be on display - not hiding behind beats or distortion- yet it’s some of his most restrained and underwhelming work to date.

The single Streets Been Talking - the video for which stars a British bulldog named Tottie - is nursery rhyme-esque in its arrangement and melody, which feels like an easy way in. Okereke sticks rigidly to a hook in the verses insofar as the syllables don’t even fit properly.

The song does build, with a string section and high pitched woodwind behind him in the second verse, but these trilling moments add to the fairytale elements of a playful song that’s just a bit too nice.

When the chorus jumps in, the song turns into more of a theatrical moment, rather than music made by the frontman of a once febrile indie-rock band. Teamed with the brassy first track, Overture, and especially the cabaret-style Capers, the record feels more over the top than it should be.

That said, there are more delicate moments to enjoy - Yamaya and Road To Ibadan are gentle, acoustic finger-picked highlights - yet these are still overshadowed by cliched, obvious lyrics that leave little room for analysis or imagination. “Don't make me wait too long / See how my love will burn strong,” he sings on Portrait.

There’s definitely vulnerability here, though. The decisive use of male pronouns on Grounds for Resentment, a collaboration with Years and Years’ Olly Alexander, sees the two openly gay men putting themselves out there, exposed in the midst of heteronormative pop music.

A song written for his daughter, Savannah, also shows the emotional depth of fatherhood, while a broad a theme on ‘Fatherland’ is a feeling of suspicion that Okereke’s partner might be on the cusp of leaving him. These sensitive moments are the most favourable elements, but there’s just not enough substance to back them up.

Kele Okereke Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Wed October 18 2017 - GLASGOW St Lukes
Fri October 20 2017 - LEEDS Chapel
Sat October 21 2017 - LIVERPOOL Studio 2
Sun October 22 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Sunflower Lounge
Tue October 24 2017 - RAMSGATE Ramsgate Music Hall
Wed October 25 2017 - LONDON Islington Assembly Hall
Thu October 26 2017 - BRIGHTON Rialto Theatre
Fri October 27 2017 - PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms

Click here to compare & buy Kele Okereke Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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