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Steve Mason - Boys Outside

It’s quite good to have you back, Steve.

It says a lot about Steve Mason’s current state of mind that, after years of playing around with amusingly absurd band names (Beta Band, King Biscuit Time and Black Affair), he has delivered ‘Boys Outside’, his first album using his given name, presenting himself and his musical ideas front and center, without hiding behind the guise of a goofy moniker. The instantly recognizable voice is still prevalent in the mix, but for the most part these songs are stripped of the glossier production of his former outfits, with producer Richard X crafting understated electronic accents to augment Mason’s candid lyrics and acoustic guitar based melodies. It all adds up to an engaging, compelling album that is Mason’s strongest since 2001’s ‘Hot Shots II’.

The album kicks off with the dynamic pulse of ‘Understand My Heart,’ which overtly states the albums unvarnished intentions to present a sincere side of Mason that was perhaps concealed in the past. It’s a welcome shift in focus and form that draws the listener closer to these songs, and helps strengthen already durable, distinctive numbers. ‘Am I Just A Man’ has subtle hints of ‘Dry The Rain’ in its infectious rhythm, perhaps a flippant nod to one of his most celebrated songs. But the subject of ‘Am I Just A Man’ is in a slightly better place, with a clearer head on his shoulders and well-defined ideas about how the world works. That developing self-confidence is mixed with a tense insecurity that has always been present in Mason’s music, and this record seems to be the closest he’s come to coming to terms with that dichotomy.

‘Yesterday’ wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Mason’s Beta Band material, and forms a moody introduction to ‘Lost And Found,’ the album’s lead single and centerpiece. It’s an indelible track that showcases Mason’s patented rhythmic vocal delivery as well as his utterly catchy choruses. It’s as distinctive a song as Mason has penned in years, and truly represents a strong return to form for the venerable songwriter. The record hits a bit of an inevitable lull after such a striking number, before the mournful but marvelous ‘All Come Down,’ which has a melancholy, downbeat sound of Bristol to it. It really is a gorgeous song, and sets up the album well for its strong finish, with both the stately beauty of the title track and closer ‘Hound On My Heel’ resonating strongly, with Mason sounding eerily like Roger Waters. But make no mistake, Boys Outside is entirely the stark sound and vision of Steve Mason, presenting himself utterly and honestly in these forthright songs. It’s quite good to have you back, Steve.

Tags: Steve Mason, Reviews, Album Reviews

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