When Paddy Hanna called his second album ‘Frankly, I Mutate’, it was clearly a mission statement from a songwriter who wasn’t prepared to pigeonhole himself within other people’s expectations. After all, why shouldn’t he be able to open for Burt Bacharach and front an electro leaning art-house rock band (Autre Monde), who spend their time in imaginary museums.
One of Hanna’s great skills is his ability to harness his short attention span and compartmentalise it between diverging projects. If he wants to make a country album someday, he will. If he wants to make an industrial metal album someday, he will. But while his tastes may be in a constant state of flux, he will never mix oil with water.
His third solo album, ‘The Hill’, finds Hanna reunited with his crack-team of Bad Boys: Girl Band’s Adam Faulkner and Daniel Fox on drums and double bass, Daniel Fitzpatrick (Badhands) on guitar and keys and Jill Redmond on vocals – with Fox double-jobbing production duties – for another magical exploration.
Hanna is akin to the 1970’s BBC cartoon character Mr. Benn, putting on various costumes and hats throughout ‘The Hill’ and exploring with gusto. Reference points include Serge Gainsbourg, pre-fame Pulp, Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch and ‘Funeral’-era Arcade Fire.
‘The Hill’ opens with the cinematic palate cleanser Last Of Their Kind, a striking, dramatic and foreboding fanfare which will undoubtedly become a live favourite eventually. This playful composition leads perfectly into single Cannibals, which is also underpinned by an appreciation of Spaghetti Western soundtracks.
While a sombre undercurrent of Noir leaning guitar lines and melodies are omnipresent throughout ‘The Hill’, flourishes of accordion and other assorted instrumentation are paramount and in many ways, the album’s not-so-secret weapon. 2020 has given us everything else, so why can’t Paddy Hanna make the accordion sexy again?
The album’s most surprising and alluring moment comes in the form of Jog On Shall We, a stunning, meandering spoken-word piece which combines the mundane elements of a diary entry with a daydream to create something magical, something surely the aforementioned Messrs Murdoch and Cocker would be proud of.
Paddy Hanna sees the world differently from the rest of us and long may that continue because his view from ‘The Hill’ is magnificent.