Drop the virtual needle onto the digital groove of a new Phil Cooper album and you do so with a few expectations already in mind. Clever lyrics. A supple groove. Infectious melodies. Easy accessibility. And all of those clever tricks and sonic smarts which seem to keep the Cooper-verse a unique and wonderful place. What you don’t expect is a relentless rock grind coming at you at a rate of knots but that is what greets you in the guise of opening salvo…and salvo is the perfect word…House of Mirrors. But being a Phil Cooper album the brashness of the guitars are tempered by the smooth melody, the refined vocal deliveries and deft pop awareness.
But then again it has always been this ability to plunder the immediacy and contagion of pop music and meld it on to a more mature sound, rock or otherwise, which has made his music so effective, so memorable, so damn good. It was just a bit of a shock, that’s all, ‘though in hindsight a very pleasant one. Treading Water, which follows immediately then reminds us of the wide sonic gamut that he has always been capable of running, even within a fairly pop-rock sound, here bringing soulful touches and sultry lines (just listen to those blues and brass breaks) to bear on an unsuspecting audience.
Over My Head is the lead single from the album and you can see why it was sent out first on a sonic charm offensive, classic Cooper, blending of lyrical depth and fist in the air sound-bite anthemics with gentle musical undertows and soothing seduction. Changing Times is a solid, kick arse rocker, all staccato riffs and foot on the monitor swagger, A Thousand Tiny Differences races off at an unprecedented pace and Tell Me It’s All Okay is a dark, brooding and perhaps accidental soundtrack for these times.
These Revelation Games is a fine record, one which plays with the more acoustic moods of earlier albums but which embraces a more rocked up demeanour too. There’s pop. There’s rock. There is even pop-rock. But when an artist finds the sweet spot between those oft mutually exclusive forms it becomes something else altogether, at which point generic labels prove too limiting to sum it up succinctly anyway. But if you want to know what that sounds like all you have to do is give These Revelation Games a spin.