There were a couple of recent(ish) episodes of the superb YouTube series ‘Produce Like A Pro’ that featured Roger Joseph Manning Jnr talking with the host Warren Huart about how Jellyfish recorded their wonderful ‘Bellybutton’ and ‘Spilt Milk’ albums. Within each of the enthralling episodes (a must-watch for music nerds everywhere, trust me) Roger revealed how the band would always go back to one other band’s music to sense check if what they were doing was right – and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us kind of thing -and (spoiler alert) that band was the greatest band to ever come out of Swindon, XTC.
So, what the hell has this got to do with the third studio album from Willie Dowling and Jon Poole I hear you ask? Well, Jellyfish and their influences are exactly the right place from which to start this review, not least because ‘See You See Me’ opens with a title track that welcomes the listener in like some long lost friend of the masters of 90s bubblegum pop, a band who introduced a whole new generation of us to the delights of Supertramp, The Beach Boys and the Raspberries amongst many others.
Where The Dowling Poole perhaps now have the slight edge on Jellyfish is that they have almost three decades of new influences that they can channel into their songwriting and that’s why whilst ‘The Product’ might sound at times like an in his prime Elvis Costello its comes complete with a haunting Rialto (remember them?) like harmony vocal refrain and sounds just like the guys had Missy Elliott helping out behind the desk. It really shouldn’t work, but by God it does.
Likewise, ‘Keeping The Stupid Stupid’ has that Marilyn Manson patented march as a backbeat but over it, Dowling and Poole sounds more like the modern-day Squeeze, and without a doubt things are certainly very cool for these cats.
Then there’s the white soul of recent video/single ‘Hope’ a song so fantastic you could just imagine Robert Palmer or Prince having it on one of their mega Platinum selling records. In fact, it’s a song I’d love to hear Jarle Bernhoft get to grips with one day. Now that really would be one hell of a collaboration.
Elsewhere ‘Made In Heaven’ suddenly has me looking for the Andy Partridge co-write credit on the press sheet, and ‘Human Soup’ has me thinking that The Dowling Poole might just be the ideal support act for Crowded House’s UK return this summer, and at the same time ‘Alison’s Going Home’ suddenly makes me want to go dig out those classic Head Automatica albums all over again.
Lyrically on point throughout the album, there are those who will argue that politics (however subliminal they might be) should be kept out of music, but when the songs are as joyous as those contained here on ‘See You See Me’ you’d have to be a total moron not to appreciate the social context in which these tracks are being written. Oh, and for those of you thinking “all he’s done here is reference other bands in his review”, just look at those bands, XTC, Jellyfish, Elvis Costello and Squeeze. I’m sure that’s a quartet of artists Willie Dowling and Jon Poole won’t mind sharing some review space with.
So, with their former Wildhearts bandmates justifiably receiving plaudits galore for their ‘Renaissance Men’ album, ‘See You See Me’ whilst an altogether different beast, is every bit as great as that record. The million-dollar question I suppose though is will you be brave enough to make the purchase leap when it’s released at the end of February? Go on I dare you – and who knows – perhaps in just a few years’ time we may be watching Willie and Jon doing their very own ‘Produce Like A Pro’ webisode, because to my ears ‘See You See Me’ is absolute powerpop genius.
Buy ‘See You See Me’: Here
Author: Johnny Hayward