Phil Wilson – God Bless Jim Kennedy

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

The rare comeback that pleases fans and doesn’t embarrass the artist; you probably could’ve predicted that the humble, intelligent Phil Wilson would be able to pull it off. After the June Brides broke up in 1987, Wilson basically stopped playing music completely. Thank God the Slumberland label thought enough of Wilson to release this fine bit of indie pop. Will it change the world? No, but it will make it a smidge more tolerable.

What I Think of This Album

Named after his grandfather, God Bless finds Phil Wilson looking backwards. The June Brides were somewhat innovative for incorporating a viola and trumpet into their jangly indie pop, and if nothing here is groundbreaking or revelatory, that doesn’t make it any less welcome. There is always room for catchy, well-crafted tunes. Two other former June Brides participate – critically, they are violist Frank Sweeney and trumpeter Jon Hunter – so this is not too far afield from the glory days of the late-’80s.

The music here is bright, smart, and tuneful, and you may think you’ve heard it before, but even so, you still haven’t heard it nearly often enough. To be clear, this isn’t a tired retread – Wilson makes some excellent, energizing music on this album, well worth repeat listens (and owning – obviously). “Always In Trouble” is an amazing nugget, with an arpeggiated guitar and sawing viola, reminding me a bit of the Bats. A jaunty trumpet colors the sunny “Pop Song #32.” A sweeping viola (doubled on trumpet) adds to the feeling of nostalgia on the peppy and sentimental “Small Town.” “I Own It” likewise speeds by as an emphatic statement of purpose. The guitar work on opener “Three Days” is excellent, and “Found a Friend” is an airy, contemplative ballad. The ragged harmonies on the title track are charming, but what sells it is the stuttering rhythm. There is a latter-day Teenage Fanclub sound to “Up to London.”

Among the many people and bands thanked in the liner notes are Pete Astor (the Loft, the Weather Prophets), Bunnygrunt, and the Tyde, all of whom will have their own entries in this absurd blog.

Tissue alert:  Kennedy died at the age of 17, and as Wilson observes “his life was just long enough to give me and my family ours.”

The Best Thing About This Album

“Always in Trouble” is fantastic.

Release Date

November 2010

The Cover Art

It’s difficult to begrudge someone a picture of their grandfather, deceased while still a teenager. But I don’t have to like it.

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