Richard Hawley: Further review – Another fine record
“Someone call 999, Richard Hawley’s been robbed,” Alex Turner joked when Arctic Monkeys accepted the Mercury Music Prize for their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, which beat Hawley’s sumptuous love letter to Sheffield, Cole’s Corner.
Back then, Arctic Monkeys looked up to Hawley as an esteemed elder statesman from their hometown. He’s been there, done that, and bought the Longpigs T-shirt, playing guitar with the fringe Britpop band, who were signed to U2’s Mother Records, and serving two stints with Pulp alongside his pal Jarvis Cocker.
In another of those unexpected anniversary announcements guaranteed to make you feel older, as it only feels like yesterday when he rolled into Whelan’s as a solo artist newly signed to Setanta, Hawley marks 20 years of a successful solo career with his first album not to reference a Sheffield landmark in the title. In his own inimitable style, Hawley is hilariously sanguine about this landmark.
“I suppose 20 years is quite a long time in this business but, to be honest, even after all this time, I’m still a searcher,” he says. “I’m still genuinely searching for things, in music and in life. I can’t tell you exactly what I’m looking for, or where I’m actually going but when I get there, I’ll probably send you a text.”
Hawley’s continuing success is built on a combination of great songs and a born natural charisma. When a member of the audience raucously told him that he was gorgeous at a Vicar St gig, he immediately shot back by deadpanning: “I see Mensa are having their Christmas party early this year.”
Hawley aficionados may feel like readjusting their sets after hearing the opening stomper, Off My Mind, a concise three-minute blast of rock’n’roll that is somewhat at odds with the traditional image of the Sheffield man as one of the last great crooners. Alone, My Little Treasures, and the title track Further, are all on the more familiar ground of the gentle balladeer, who once described himself as soft as a bag of chips.
My Little Treasures recalls drinking with his late father’s friends with a charming refrain of “cold beer in warm places, heartache and old faces”. Is There a Pill? reintroduces the noise and Marshall stacks, but Hawley is a little more restrained with this string-backed symphonic rock song that wouldn’t sound too out of a place on a Manic Street Preachers album, who collaborated with Hawley on the title track of their 2013 album, Rewind the Film.
This is another fine Hawley record but not one that will widely appeal beyond an already devoted fanbase. Galley Girl flaffs around not really going anywhere, but there are enough songs of the calibre of Not Lonely to make this another decent Hawley album, where he taps into a rich vein that has blossomed over two decades. “Loneliness is not the same as being on your own,” Hawley croons on a song that deals with the challenges of being young in the modern world and observing the trials and tribulations of his 19-year old son.
As Hawley nudges into his early 50s, his voice is as good ever, even if every single song doesn’t hit the sweet spot. Further ends on another high note with the charming Doors, a slightly psyche and progressive tune that stays true to the core Hawley sound. When capable of songs of this quality, you’d easily forgive him an occasional wobble.