Punk/alt-rock guitarist James Stevenson just dropped his sophomore solo album, The Other Side Of The World, the codicil to his debut solo effort, Everything’s Getting Closer To Being Over. Released via Pink Gun Records, the title track is about James’ brother, David, who contended with the terminal malady known as Picks Disease.
James explains, “Not many people have heard of the disease – it’s a really nasty one. The first lockdown was hard for us all but losing my brother in the middle of it truly broke my heart. The other side of the world is a reference to him living in Australia and also, because it’s a neurological brain disorder, that he was on the other side of the world mentally.”
Recorded remotely, James laid down all the guitar, bass, and vocal tracks over a drum machine in his studio. Then he sent them to Smiley, drummer of the Alarm, who inserted the drums. The final step saw the tracks travelling to Peter Walsh, who put in keyboards and handled the mixing.
The album includes the talents of Henry Badowski (saxophone), Jessica Lee Morgan (backing vocals), Terry Edwards (saxophone), Elizabeth Westwood and Tracie Hunter (backing vocals), Mike Peters (harmonica), Rana Rains (female voice), and Harriet Stubbs (piano).
Over his more than four-decade career, James Stevenson has been a member of the Alarm, Gene Loves Jezebel, Gen X, the Cult, Holy Holy, Chelsea, and The International Swingers. As part of Holy Holy, he plays with Tony Visconti, Woody Woodmansey, and Glenn Gregory, while in the punk-rock supergroup The International Swingers, he joins Clem Burke, Gary Twinn, and Glen Matlock.
Speaking about his seeming omnipresence, James says, “Journalist Mick Mercer once cited me as having played in 72% of all known bands! and it does feel like that sometimes. It can be a bit of a juggling act. I love playing in bands but creating your own record is fantastic too, though I do have 72% etched on my personal guitar picks!”
Comprising 11-tracks, the album starts off with “Baby Come On,” opening on searing guitars flavoured with bluesy punk redolence, as well as tinges of psychedelia. Gang-like harmonies give the song retro coloration, recalling the ’70s and ’80s.
Speaking subjectively, highlights include “When You’re Feeling Sad and Lonely,” which pushes out dark, grungy guitars riding a potent alt-rock rhythm. For some reason, this track conjures up Neil Young revving it up on gritty, urgent guitars, although James’ rasping vocals imbue the lyrics with more grimacing textures.
A personal favourite, “Ugly Beautiful” rolls out on pummeling punk guitars, ferocious and sneering, as James injects the lyrics with sneering punk defiance.
Thick and oozing raw, voluptuous washes of slippery blues, “I’m Getting Over You Now” undulates on sleazy viscous surfaces. The low-slung bray of the organ and the sensuous guitar solo infuse the tune with slinky textures. Imagine Robin Trower covering Stevie Ray Vaughan and you’ll have an idea of the way this track drips fat blues savours.
The dazzling instrumental, “New York 10023,” reminiscent of Pink Floyd, prowls forth on luscious prog-rock aromas. James shares, “‘New York 10024’ is about a crazy night I had with model Paula Hamilton in New York in the mid-’80s.”
Terry Edwards’ sax on “In The Nighttime” delivers unadulterated eroticism, followed by the cutting edge of an incandescent guitar solo. Whereas “Take A Little Love” pumps out curls of Southern rock, à la The Allman Brothers.
The final track, “Just Like I Do,” features a gentle harmonic flow, rippling and glossy, on top of a mid-tempo rhythm. A surf-rock-flavoured guitar glides over a graceful sparkling piano, imbuing the song with soft suggestions of yacht-rock.
Encompassing a smorgasbord of stylistic varnishes, The Other Side Of The World substantiates James Stevenson’s songwriting ability and his extraordinary guitar virtuosity.
The Other Side Of The World Track Listing:
1. Baby Come On
2. Gotta Find That Feelin’
3. When You’re Feeling Sad And Lonely
4. Ugly Beautiful
5. I’m Getting Over You Now
6. NewYork 10023
7. In The Nighttime
8. Take A Little Love
9. Point It To Your Head
10. The Other Side Of The World
11. Just like I Do
Run Time: 43:49
Release Date: July 9, 2021
Record Label: Pink Gun Records