Andy Wickett is the new romantic Pete Best. How has he earned this dubious accolade? Well, long before Simon Le Bon swathed himself in scarves and joined the Taylor triplets and Nick Rhodes in the fledgling Duran Duran, Mr Wickett was their vocalist, belting out prototype versions of “Girls on Film” and “Rio” to hip, post punk Midlanders in the late 70’s. The rest, as they say, is history. Helmed by Le Bon, the Durannies surfed the wave of the zeitgeist all the way to the top of the charts, leaving Wickett to make a low key, but fascinating career on the fringes of the music business. “Creatures of Love” is his first solo album. No, it doesn’t sound like Duran Duran.
Wickett hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs since 1980. He’s had a go at electronica, dub, ska, and rock, but it seems for 2017, he’s settled on a lush, pop sound built on classic lines. The easy option would have been to strap on a baggy silk blouse, get busy with the eye liner and cruise into the nostalgia circuit, opening shows for Belouis Some and Classix Nouveaux. Fortunately, he didn’t. He made “Creatures of Love” instead.
There’s a great line in Giles Smith’s book “Lost In Music” where, on hearing the mixed version of his band’s album for the first time, he describes it as “Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, remade in Lego”. That’s almost what we have here. The eleven songs that make up this record are crying out for a widescreen, over the top production – don’t get me wrong, this is a great sounding record, but some of these songs are just begging to be Trevor Horn-ed to perfection. Unsurprisingly, there’s an eighties feel to the album with synth strings wafting behind some neatly crafted pop songs. “Border Song” is a case in point. Wickett’s vocal melody curls around chattering keyboards, soul diva backing vox and a rolling rhythm section. He’s managed to squash multiple hooklines into one tune, which is quite an achievement. “Make It” nods towards “Faith” era George Michael and combines a gospel organ with a country and western bassline. Now there’s a hybrid you don’t hear very often. All the material on “Creatures of Love” has been polished to a high sheen and the arrangements are stuffed with lovely details – the ringing guitar on “Kingdom”, the skipping beat of “Evidently” and the squelchy synth noises on “Creature of Love” all deserve honourable mentions. Wickett’s voice is strong and distinctive and sits nicely in the mix …and did I hear an echo of Andrew Eldritch in the chorus of “Preacher Man”? Yeah, his vocal mannerisms do owe something to the fabulous eighties, but with everyone from Lady Gaga to St Vincent mining that decade for diamonds, maybe Wickett’s time has come.
This album deserves to be heard by more than just Duran Duran completists who’ll play it once and then file it next to their Stephen Duffy and Power Station albums. “Creatures of Love” is a tiny treasure trove of lovely things, which doesn’t really care what 2017 should sound like. It manages to combine “retro” with “contemporary” in a rather appealing way. It’s not a novelty, eighties throwback record that Wickett can flog at New Romantic themed nights in Wine Bars. It’s not a vanity project by a musician who’s throwing the dice for the last time. It’s a strong, self-assured piece of work.
“Listen Without Prejudice” said that bloke from Wham! I couldn’t agree more.
“Creatures of Love” is available from November 3rd via Cleopatra Records. The albums full track listing is as follows…
Aint no one
Take me to the city
Good die young