The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Stephen Fitz­patrick

Life is Fine Paul Kelly EMI If there’s any­thing Paul Kelly ever for­got about con­struct­ing kick-arse songs, it prob­a­bly wasn’t worth know­ing — and the de­light­ful thing here is that Life is Fine sees Kelly re­turn­ing to his old mu­si­cal stomp­ing ground for the first time in sev­eral al­bums.

There has been a range of stylis­tic de­par­tures in re­cent years — his quirky Shake­speare in­ter­pre­ta­tion Seven Son­nets and a Song; the Char­lie Owen col­lab­o­ra­tion Death’s Date­less Night, quite lit­er­ally a fu­ne­real col­lec­tion — but this sees Kelly come back, by his own ad­mis­sion, to the bread-and-but­ter pop-rock that marked his el­e­va­tion from the early 1980s to the throne of Aus­tralia’s king of the bit­ter­sweet bal­lad with a killer back­beat.

Many of his long-time mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tors are again in the stu­dio on this one, in­clud­ing sis­ters Vika and Linda Bull, who pro­vide back­ing vo­cals and one lead track each.

Much of the rest of the Merri Soul Ses­sions band from that ster­ling 2014 ef­fort is here, too. Kelly com­pares the first sin­gle, Fire­wood and Can­dles, to some of the best of what his late 1980s band the Mes­sen­gers came up with.

Al­bum closer Life is Fine is a set­ting of a piece by Amer­i­can poet Langston Hughes, writ­ing, when Kelly was still but a boy, of the im­pen­e­tra­ble un­know­ing­ness of life: “I could’ve died for love, but for livin’ I was born / though you may hear me holler, though you may see me cry / I’ll be dogged sweet baby, if you gonna see me die.”

Ever the in­ven­tor, Kelly latches on to the word Pet­ri­chor, coined by two CSIRO sci­en­tists to de­scribe the scent pro­duced when rain falls on dry soil, for a clas­sic Kelly cho­rus of “I don’t need you, but I sure want you”.

In be­tween is plenty of the man’s usual wry hu­mour, in­clud­ing a blues-groove ode to man flu, worth the price of ad­mis­sion all by it­self.

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