It has been well documented that second albums can be tricky to complete. For some artists, it’s a case of finding material with a rapidly advancing deadline and a record label breathing down their necks; for others, it’s more a case of real life getting in the way of art. For London-based singer-songwriter Mick Terry, the latter definitely applies. Following the release of his debut ‘The Grown Ups’ in 2009, he began making early plans for a follow up. A tentative completion date was scheduled for Easter 2012, but with a producer several thousand miles away and various other things proving a distraction, that time came and went.

By the end of 2012, a couple of songs had appeared online, but as far as a full release of any kind was concerned, there seemed to be nothing doing. Terry continued to talk about a second album, but still the years ticked by. Grey hairs were cultivated, songs were written; album names changed…Then, eventually, in the summer of 2018 – approximately eight years after a follow up to ‘The Grown Ups’ was first tentatively mentioned – the recording was finally complete and almost ready to fill the world’s collective lugholes.

Two of its ten songs have existed since the early days. ‘Pop Is A Dirty Word’ originally streamed online in demo form back in 2012 and ‘Riverbend’ was given away as a free download at the end of that year. Time has been incredibly kind to both, in that they more than hold their own among the newer material. ‘Riverbend’ is especially lovely, casting Mick a little further away from his trademark pop and instead dabbling with light Americana. Throughout this four minute ballad, his acoustic strums come in a very assured manner, as does his very natural voice, but it’s the extra embellishments that lift it from being just another acoustic ditty to something special. Guest vocalist Rosalie Deighton – sometime of Danny & The Champions of The World – adds some lovely understated harmonies throughout, whilst a mournful steel guitar accentuates the sadness of the song, making it sound like Terry’s own homage to Ryan Adams & The Cardinals. Mick was always a pop fiend at heart, of course, and the other older number ‘Pop’s A Dirty Word’ flaunts this with abandon. A tribute to radio heroes from the past, the number tells the tale of bedroom Dansettes, of being obsessed with sleeve notes and tuning into a crackling wavelength for Radio Caroline. Alongside the breezy, insightful lyric, you’ll get sucked into a bouncing piano and handclaps, swirling 70s melodies aplenty and a great vocal. For listeners who’ve been besotted by the retro pop of The Feeling, Farrah and other retro sounding pop bands not necessarily beginning with F, this’ll become a cast iron favourite. Not just for the music, either; there’s such a loving truth in the lyric, you can’t help but relate. [Things aren’t changing for the better; even at the time of this album’s release, press releases for pop oriented bands are being sent out with tags like “indie” and “light alternative”. Mick is right: pop has, indeed, become a dirty word.]

With a combination of acoustic and electric ingredients driven by a ringing guitar riff, ‘Emily Come Back’ is a fine piece of pop that melds a thoughtful verse with an upbeat hook. Traces of Danny Wilson meet the sounds of Jim Boggia to give Terry a great track that deserves to become an underground classic. Here, the ingredients of his own ‘Grown Ups’ record finally reach pop maturity. With a stabbed piano set against a rigid beat, ‘Everybody’s Talking’ isn’t a popped up rendition of the Nilsson classic, but instead, Terry’s own take on an old Northern Soul workout. Here, his pop chops tap into an arrangement with echoes of Holland-Dozier-Holland and The Temptations and it’s surprising that he sounds so comfortable, vocally speaking. The thin sounding brass is a small drawback – measured against the rest of the elpee, this sounds like a polished demo, ready to be given a full bells and whistles send off sometime – but the overall vibe of the track is amazing; a feel-good, sun-drenched nod to yesteryear, while ‘Stars’ is a brilliant semi-acoustic, 70s inspired piece of pop that seems to be a great companion to the previous album’s ‘Comets’. A wonderful, George Harrison-esque slide guitar adds a melodic counterpoint to Terry’s vocal – his best, this time out – and overall, the piece has a mellow pop vibe that harkens back to legends like Paul Carrack’s Ace. The whole of ‘Days Go By’ is good to great, but this track is the clear winner.

With more of a lean towards the mellow, there’s something in the basic melodies of ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ that occasionally hint at the Faces’ ‘Debris’, with Terry wielding the acoustic guitar, backed by a warm bass and steel guitar. An exercise in subtlety, the track feels very personal in a less obvious way. It doesn’t stand out instantly, but the timeless arrangement and heartfelt vocal soon help it to stick. Also finding time for something softer, ‘The End of You & Me’ revisits the end of an old relationship with a bitter-sweet air. The chosen guitar riff makes his acoustic sound like the chiming of an old clock, while the theme of bells pops up elsewhere as Mick likens the final moments as being like a barman calling time on all things fun. It’s short, it’s subtle, but it’s also incredibly sad, proving that the artist is able to connect with the past in a deeper way…and in a way that most other people will be able filter into their own similar experiences.

‘Arthur’s Tale’ revisits a rumpty-tumpty Jellyfish-y arrangement, something Terry first explored on the semi-autobiographical ‘Hoxton Song’ almost a decade previously. Other parallels with that track can be drawn via it’s storytelling aspect and Jim Boggia stepping up for a spirited backing vocal. The shamelessly retro sound being flaunted cares not for fashion and is all the better for it, with the lead vocal sounding especially chipper, even if the narrative isn’t always the most positive. Stabbed pianos and more reminiscence fills the bouncy ‘Rocking In The Photograph’; a track with a particularly enthusiastic vocal and finely played twin lead, the ghosts of the best 10cc works were obviously haunting the studio space. For fans of singer-songwriter retro-pop, it’ll provide a near immediate joy. Despite having a sneering lyric, ‘Friends Like That’ wins through with a great melodic backbone. Accompanied by a stabbed electric piano and a slow rumpty-tumpty rhythm, again, a love of 10cc looms large. With Terry’s voice curled against a higher backing vocal and brassy interlude, everything screams 70s and it’s a definite throwback; not just to a bygone decade, though, but also to Terry’s previous record, only with results that sound beefier and more assured. By the time a semi-bluesy electric guitar solo saunters into the arrangement, followed by a jazzy piano coda, there’s very much a feeling that Boggia’s much-loved kitchen sink production has come into play.

‘Days Go By’ is bigger, shinier and all round more professional sounding than Mick’s debut, but then that’s to be expected given how long it took to make. Jim Boggia’s production makes most of the songs sparkle, but full credit should be given to Terry for maturing as a songwriter. ‘Emily Come Back’, ‘Pop’s A Dirty Word’ and the wistful ‘Stars’ are especially strong. In terms of a loving homage to the AM radio pop that would have filled the musician’s ears as a boy, on the whole, this album couldn’t have turned out finer.

September/October 2018