Kele Okereke is a man of many sides. In the mid-00s he was the morose, Morrissey-esque captain of Bloc Party’s indie disco ship, adding a little miserabilia to every shoulder-jerking chorus. Then, he and his pals found the sampler pad, becoming more and more experimental away from the trad-rock template with every turn. Later, when he returned as a solo artist, it was with a new aesthetic (gym bunny in a wifebeater) and a hedonistic love for a fist-pumping dance tune.
Now, a world away from the banging beats and club kicks of his previous solo endeavours, ‘Fatherland’ largely finds the Bloc Party frontman going back to his sad boy roots. A series of low-key offerings that veer from quietly-plucked introversions to tongue-in-cheek romantic laments, it’s a far more drive-time offering than anything the singer’s proffered previously. But while it’s nice to have melancholy Kele back from his big night out, ‘Fatherland”s acoustic musings and intimate vocals often lack a little bite.
‘Capers’ is a slightly odd rinky-dink knees-up that aims for the finger-clicking charm of an old swing tune but ends up a kind of sub-par Carl Barat, while ‘Streets Been Talkin’ is too sing-song to really land. Elsewhere, his collaboration with Years and Years’ Olly Alexander, ‘Grounds For Resentment’, bobs along pleasantly on a chirruping keyboard line; like much of the record, it’s just a bit… fine?
Thankfully, there are a decent few gorgeous bits in there too to show that Kele’s not entirely surrendered to the middle of the road – ‘Yemaya”s lush strings are genuinely affecting, while the Corrine Bailey Rae-featuring ‘Versions Of Us’ has echoes of BP classic ‘This Modern Love’ in its vocals. Kudos for another reinvention, but the best version of Kele probably sits nearer the middle of the spectrum.