Considering Nik Kershaw wrote the tracks on ‘Oxymoron’ before Covid-19 irrevocably altered 2020, there’s a great many songs which work very well in describing this year. But that says a lot about Kershaw doesn’t it; there’s a reason Elton John described him as the best songwriter of his generation. He is the consummate songwriter, his songs stand the test of time.
‘Oxymoron’ isn’t a concept album, but at the same time, it’s not actually an oxymoron either. Speaking to us last month about the songs on the album, Kershaw said,
“Well to be fair, they don’t contradict each other, they don’t complement each other either, they’re a collection of random songs. People always ask what the theme was, what the idea was behind the album. But it is pretty random, some songs are not going to sound as connected as others, about the only thing that connects them is my voice, and the odd lyric or two.”
Opening with ‘The Chosen Ones’, with its lines about being in a bubble, and disinfected hands, it’s hard to believe it was written before all this began. Additionally, it speaks of the better times, reminiscing about the younger days; a great opener, as it sets the pace for the rest of the album.
Track 2, ‘From Cloudy Bay To Malibu’, could also just as easily be a song of this year, with its story of a man who when his partner leaves him, seeks solace at a bar whereupon he travels around the world via a series of alcoholic beverages. It’s very clever word play, and even though in reality the man never leaves the comfort of his bar seat, he nonetheless “travels” from Cloudy Bay (New Zealand) to Malibu (California), visiting Moscow, and a variety of other “locations” along the way, all the while the jaunty, upbeat music additionally puts one in mind of a road trip.
‘Can’t Go On’ is in a way an oxymoron. Tropically-vibed musically it’s upbeat and jolly, yet lyrically it’s tinged with sadness. ‘The Wind Will Blow’ further cements Kershaw’s prophetic talents; it’s another track that could well have been written about this year.
The stand out track is about the midway point, ‘Babylon Brothers’. The title feels like an homage to Bowie’s ‘Bewlay Brothers’, and even though sonically it couldn’t be further from that song if it tried, it’s a great namedropper of a track, with references to yes, Bowie, who was the reason Kershaw got into the music biz in the first place, plus as Queen, and “Whispering” Bob Harris and the Old Grey Whistle Test. The track is somewhat poignant as well, a history of what it was like doing music back in the day, looking back on the fun of those times – “we heard the call, the call was loud” – and it’s got that classic Kershaw sound, while at the same time utilising the production methods and instruments of now. It’s reflective, a little sad, but for this music fan who grew up in the 80s, the bitter-sweetness is offset by the joyous memories it invokes.
Track 10, the lullaby ‘Little Star’, and ‘These Little Things’, track 13, are pictures of domesticity, and paint a picture of Kershaw’s homelife, its absolute normality. Lines like “David Attenborough on my telly, chicken korma in my belly” just pull the listener in like a loving hug, they put warm and fluffy socks on our feet, and draw us a little closer to the fire.
The final track, ‘They Were There’, is perhaps the perfect way to end the album, with its moving story of those who actually live the news stories we see in the papers or on the tv: the old soldier who’d served at Dunkirk and El Alamein – the gunshot-like percussion brings a catch to the throat. The woman who swaddles us up in Tupperware “sealed for our protection”; it’s open to interpretation, but once again, could easily be a song about the front line workers in the current situation. One thing for sure – no matter the real meaning, this and the other songs on the album are going to stand the test of time.
‘Oxymoron’ is out tomorrow, 16 October, through Audio Network, and will be available to stream and download, and to buy on CD, Vinyl LP, and Limited Edition Coloured Vinyl LP. Find out more information here. Find Nik Kershaw online on his official website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.