With its lyrical themes and stories from the past loosely inspired by a diary from 1982, you could say this debut by London based singer-songwriter Mick Terry has been a long time in the making. ‘The Grown Ups’ is a personal record, but not in the soul-baring sense. It’s an album of lost friendships, relationship and closure which always retains a smile of optimism.
‘Hoxton Son’ opens the disc with simple, stabbing pianos with a gentle bass accompaniment. At the point where you think it’s about to elevate into Jellyfish ‘Ghost at Number One’ territory, Terry goes for a key change, but little more. Naturally, the rumpty-tumpty drums appear eventually – and by the time they do, the sound of the whole band is warm and inviting, without becoming intrusive. The sampled brass near the end isn’t entirely necessary, but on the whole, this paean to a London town has a charming quality, effectively pulling the listener into Terry’s musical world. ‘Northern Exposure’ follows suit with a similar marching feel – this time bringing more focus to the acoustic guitar. The mix of guitar and organ is effective and unfussy.
The acoustic based ‘Comets’ features slide guitar and accordion, but the heart of the song is provided by guitar and brushed drums. Terry’s storytelling approach comes with a heart warming quality and often unassuming manner. The chorus has a vocal approach which at first feels like it may irritate, but after a few listens becomes oddly endearing. The lead vocal has an intimate feel and a sound which reminds me very much of another London based singer-songwriter, Rich Barnard. I’m not sure whether that’s down to song writing style, or just the work of his English accented delivery. ‘Ringing Like a Bell’ has a very seventies feel, with tasteful electric guitar leads to punctuate the acoustic work. The warm bass and handclaps lend themselves to a tune with a very complete feel.
For the last couple of songs, the quality tails off. In keeping with the 1970s,
‘Tinseltown’ is pure easy listening; it doesn’t have the cool or song writing chops to make Mick Terry an heir to Billy Joel’s vacant piano stool, but certainly tips the hat to Andrew Gold. While Terry’s soft vocal and tales of jaded seaside towns and days past show strength, the music could have done with a little more embellishment – more than the ambling keyboard and drum machine featured.
Normally, I’m much more critical on singer-songwriter material which relies on programmed elements as opposed to more organic sounds, but Terry’s song writing has enough charm to get away with it here (but only just). Similarly, the keyboard string sounds which propel ‘Safe From Sound’ sound cheap, but an understated bass accompaniment and decent vocal performance (including a Brian Wilson inspired interlude) make the best of what could have been a dud. References to Small Faces’ ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and especially “The first Dexys album” reinforce the Englishness of Mick Terry’s teenage years. If viewed as a demo sketch, it’s easy to see what he was intending here, but this number doesn’t sound like a finished work – and certainly isn’t up to the quality of ‘Hoxton Son’, ‘Northern Exposure’ or ‘Comets’.
Featuring just eight songs and a reprise, ‘The Grown Ups’ is a succinct work, with the strongest tracks front-loaded; but two or three absolute gems held within provide more than enough reason for making it an album worth visiting…and revisiting.