LIKE SO MANY 21st Century songsmiths, Roo Panes arrives with a second album that has the weight of a thousand accolades behind it, the artist already having benefited from the inarguable fact of kazillions of streaming radio and YouTube plays.
Although he’s an exponent of the kind of intimate folk style that, decades after his ill-timed death, made Nick Drake a household name, he’s much more marketable than that doomed manic depressive, and as a sometime model, sports the face to match.
In fact, there’s not a song here that couldn’t provide down-time on CSI or any number of prime-time American TV shows, because there’s nothing in the least bit challenging about them, and despite their dressage, Panes’ songs sound like they could have come out of some focus group, so devoid are they of anything but the most predictable observations. Lines like “You’re like water on fire”, “I can hear you in the whispering rain”, and “There’s nothing for me outside your arms” abound, and while I’m sure there will be legions of young women who will go weak at the knees when they hear his sandpapery voice talking just to them, art suffers.
Paperweights (talk about an appropriate title for a record that’s really bereft of genuine artistic impulse) makes all the right moves – the delicate fingerpicking, the dulcet cellos, the (false) intimation of meaning – but it’s all designer stubble and perfectly ripped jeans. There’s none of the deep melancholy of a Drake, or the edge-of-hysteria brilliance of a Tim Hardin (a singer he superficially resembles).
Andrew ‘Roo’ Panes, given the right set of songs and songwriters (and the right test group) might become a genuine phenomenon, and his moody folk stylings certainly sound agreeable on an expensive stereo. I wanted to like Paperweights, because I’ve always had a huge soft spot for folk-oriented music with an English character. Perhaps I’ll just have to stick with my Roy Harper and Donovan records. GARY STEEL
Music = 3/5
Sound = 4/5
[Note: Gary Steel reserves the right to reappraise and alter his star ratings up or down at any time].