Paul Smith photo by Katy Cummings

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today it’s a welcome return to VS by that most literate of alt pop poets, Paul Smith of Maxïmo Park on the day that their 7th LP is released. They’ve gone from “Risk To Exist”in 2017 which spoke to social injustice and the pervading doom of Brexit and Trump to the at one glance more life affirmingly titled “Nature Always Wins” (and yet also with a touch of pandemic force majeure about it) and there’s a yearning and soaring in songs like “All Of Me”. That’s not to say that it’s all plaintive, there’s still plenty of punch with the righteously indignant “Why Must A Building Burn?”

He’s a man with a well-placed word for all occasions and with a well-appointed song choice never far behind, it’s a great pleasure to welcome back to these pages, the incomparable (in character if not in name) indie pop denizen Paul Smith!

Paul’s always been an old romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve as keenly as his trademark Clockwork Orange bowler on his head, and now he’s a Dad too, as evinced in the almighty epic earworm “Baby Sleep” whose lyrics can be avowed by parents everywhere. And the lyrics are always front and foremost, tip top and popper-most – it’s an album of more personal politics on the whole this time.

I’ve always been an ardent admirer of Paul’s wordSmithery and it’s sharp as a tack on the song “Ardour” (a great and underused word which seems like a great metaphor for Smith’s character) where he goes from (doom?) scrolling in his sleep to the fact “this ardour is arduous” and the self-deprecating couplet of “If I become the joke, can I still deliver the punchline?” in a track that also features the complementary vocals of punk legend Pauline Murray from Penetration.

That’s not to say it’s all more inward focused than “Risk To Exist”, the song “Why Must A Building Burn?” combines a powerful lament about the Grenfell tragedy and its images of lost love ones pinned up in hope and desperation reminding the band of when they lost their own friend and merchandiser Nick Alexander during the terrible Bataclan terror attack and saw his family photo on screen – a haunting image etched in their collective retina.

The whole album was produced in lockdown with a back and forth with producer Ben Allen (Gnarls Barkley/MIA) and it’s an instant classic. Different to MP of the past, and yet also unmistakably them. Paul Smith is a man of impeccable indie taste, and I know from his always edutaining Tweets that he’s influenced by Karen Dalton, Red House Painters, GBV, The Go-Betweens, Will Oldham, Afghan Whigs (and even from a previous DJ incarnation The Big Bopper) and last time on here he picked Henry Cow.

Despite his eclectic sonic palette, his work and authorship is always uniquely his/Maxïmo Park’s, and to me he’s an outsider hero amongst heroes. So we can’t wait to see what he’s picked this time out…so without further ado, here’s Paul’s “song for ewe”…

“My new SFE is It’ll All Be Over by The Supreme Jubilees

Released in the year of my birth, 1979, this song is a softly funky gospel number that I first heard on Numero Group’s excellent rare gospel compilation from 2013, Good God!: Apocryphal Hymns. Formed in Fresno, California by two sets of siblings, the Supreme Jubilees consisted of four Sanders brothers and two Kingsby brothers, all cousins who attended the same church.

Their harmonies are deliciously tight, but it’s the melody and groove that make this song transcendent. I often think of the African-American origins of gospel when I listen to this powerful type of music, and how the religious idea of an afterlife (providing respite from earthly suffering) is closely tied to the lived experience of racial injustice. Sadly, there is a deep well for gospel singers to draw upon, in that respect. Looking at our current uncertainty and daily isolation, the idea of a better time ahead is a strong one, making this song even more poignant today”


“Nature Always Wins” is available today, please purchase a copy!

Check out the truly soaring “All Of Me” below…

And in case you missed Paul’s last Henry Cow flavoured “song for ewe”…(pic of Paul by Ricky Martin aka CBBC’s “Art Ninja”)