Why does Kele’s cover of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy sound so defeated? Il towering original is a heady swirl of fear, alienation and yearning, buttressed by the steely, driving determination of its drum machine. It ends in escape, with that galvanising “run away” refrain. Yet the Bloc Party frontman only plays to the song’s fragility, so his self-pitying wallow takes away the rhythm and ends on a tired whimper of “cry boy cry”. It’s the sound of someone tearing up a railcard behind their bedroom door.
Its self-indulgence fits well with Okereke’s fifth solo album. Songs of dubious quality sidle in and out, unsure how they should be listened to, or why. There are occasional pleasant interludes and codas, particularly during From a Place of Love and The Patriots. Yet the melange of episodic soundtrack instrumentals, experimental indie psych folk and doomy melodrama is flat and lifeless. When Kele does sing, his magnificently anguished yelp is mostly stilled. There is far too much spoken word. This scattershot approach just about worked on his previous album, 2042, but this has neither its visceral immediacy nor the wild, unhinged invention of what he does best.