In a sentence:
Peter ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember’s first solo album of new material in 30 years, ‘All Things Being Equal’ is a pleasant throwback to a bygone age.
Once upon a
time, there was a psychedelic rock act called Spacemen 3, led by a songwriting
duo of musical luminaries. Hailing from the well-heeled but featureless
Northamptonshire town of Rugby, they were in escapist thrall to their idols (Suicide,
Can, Stooges) in a transparently obvious fashion that was, weirdly, way before
its time in the late Eighties but actually attempting to forge something
distinctive in the same kind of way that The Jesus & Mary Chain did. Their
partnership created two-and-a-half cult classic albums before their
relationship soured and fell apart spectacularly, whereupon they embarked on
separate projects. But where Jason Pierce, who formed Spiritualized, has been
content to carry on mining the same rich vein of influences and stick to a more
or less frequent schedule of record, release and tour, Peter ‘Sonic Boom’
Kember embarked on a less conventional career trajectory, but arguably a more
varied and influential one.
he’s recorded as Spectrum and E.A.R. sporadically since Spacemen 3
disintegrated, All Things Being Equal is Kember’s first proper solo
album (at least, under his Sonic Boom alias) in thirty years. The last
15 of those haven’t seen any new music at all except a solitary Spectrum EP,
during which time he’s engaged in production work with MGMT and Beach House
among others. Now aged 54, his new effort is another manifestation of his
unique and ongoing vision for music, and an immersive and sometimes solipsistic
rumination on mortality. It’ll be familiar to existing fans of Kember’s work,
and perhaps revelatory for newcomers as well.
with the florid ‘Just Imagine’, built on gently radiating
electronics and drum pads with Kember’s incantatory vocal telling the story of
a girl who heals herself (“just imagine you’re a tree / just imagine
simplicity”). There’s little reason why it needs to last as long as eight
minutes, but the rest of All Things Being Equal fits very much into the
same template, which is both a blessing and a curse. These compositions take
little time to get into their stride, but once they do they very rarely evolve.
However, amid a very unchanging soundscape, it does throw up some beautiful and
psychedelic soundscape and spoken-word lyrics of ‘Spinning Coins And Wishing On
Cloves’ and the Suicide-esque pulses of ‘Tawkin Techno’ are the most immediately striking moments.
‘Just A Little Piece Of Me’ features vocal contributions from Animal
Collective’s Panda Bear, one of Kember’s ideological children and who’s also
benefitted from his production wizardry. Meanwhile, ‘Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper)’ is reminiscent of the kind of
repeated two-chord riffs as many of his past glories. ‘I Can See The Light
Bend’ is a terrific freakout, and the greatest moment on the album. Conversely,
there are some tracks that outstay their welcome slightly too long, such as the
closer ‘I Feel A Change Coming On’ or the mordant ‘On A Summer’s Day’, weirdly
the most funereal moment despite being one of the few tracks that isn’t
preoccupied with death.
enormous gestation and the nature of Kember’s execution of his ideas, All
Things Being Equal feels like throwback to a time period where bands would
take their sweet-ass time in creating their art, in the same way that Kember’s
erstwhile bandmate Jason Pierce took so many years to complete the last Spiritualized
album And Nothing Hurt. After a gap of three entire
decades since his last album as Sonic Boom, it’s a little difficult to judge All
Things Being Equal as anything other than a stand-alone piece. It’s a
little repetitive, old-fashioned and stuck in its ways at times, but its
existence is most definitely A Good Thing. (6/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to All Things Being Equal by Sonic Boom here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, All Things Being Equal, Carpark Records, Peter Kember, review, Sonic Boom
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