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Kele - 2042 (Album Review)

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Asia Werbel

In another life, Kele Okereke might be one of Britain’s most interesting singer-songwriters. Alongside his work with the indie band Bloc Party, he has found time to write three very personal solo albums that cover hugely diverse genres through a distinctively candid and humorous voice, alongside a musical on marriage equality and immigration called ‘Leave to Remain’.

His fourth solo record is named for the year in which ethnic minorities will theoretically become the majority in the US, and is probably his most political work to date, dealing with issues such as the Grenfell tower fire, the Windrush scandal and the protests of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Standout moments include the excellent Jungle Bunny—a genuine groover full of nimble percussion and rat-a-tat-tat. The song's lyrics are thrillingly on the nose: “Like cocoa from the Congo / Like gold from Senegal.”

Okereke paints a vivid picture of the black British experience; sometimes exoticised, often depersonalised, sometimes brutalised and always acting suspiciously in the eyes of others. 

Natural Hair is also excellent; a breezy, loving number that describes the romantic subject as having “heart emojis for his eyes.” The track, once again, has a hypnotic, evasive rhythm and graceful arrangement that darts in and out quizzically. 

The challenge with ‘2042’ is the lack of consistency in quality. Because of the breadth of Okereke’s musical tastes, it is often difficult to pin the album to a particular sound. That needn’t be a problem when the songwriting is consistently excellent, but when it is hit and miss—as it is here—the result is an album that is quite bitty. 

Add to this the production that feels dated and occasionally underworked, the synth drum sounds in particular, and you end up with quite an unsatisfying listen, despite lyric writing that is vibrant and crucial.

Kele Okereke Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue February 04 2020 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Cluny
Wed February 05 2020 - GLASGOW King Tut's
Thu February 06 2020 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Sat February 08 2020 - MANCHESTER YES
Sun February 09 2020 - BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds
Mon February 10 2020 - BRISTOL Exchange
Tue February 11 2020 - LONDON Oslo
Wed February 12 2020 - BRIGHTON Komedia

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