When Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott re-group to release a new album, one can pretty much guess the order of play.
Songs bouncing around musical styles, some perfect blending of vocals, wit and acerbic lyrics, maybe some political comment, some choice rhyming couplets explaining a phrase or feeling to a tee.
And 'NK Pop' delivers what one expects.
From songs about Pubs and clientele that have perhaps seen better days ("Good Times"), more examinations of the human condition and relationships ("Too Much For One (Not Enough For Two)", "I Drove Her Away With All My Tears"), some upbeat feelgood rails against the world ("When The World Would Actually Listen", "Sunny Side Up"), and a touch of the finest balladry ("Who Built The Pyramids"). All tacked to varying Rockabilly, Ska, Music Hall, a dash of disco funk, and unadulterated radio-friendly Pop backing.
It has the ability to raise a smile, a knowing nod of recognition, and also a sharp intake of breath ("Still") as our narrators take on the stark reality of an uncommon subject for song, infant mortality.
The album rises and falls in mood, but never relents and continues the run of a very fine catalogue of songs.
It is arguably a bit too smooth and could maybe benefit with a little more fire or barb in the lyrics, but 'NK Pop' will deliver a comfortable listen with no skipping necessary.
Paul Heaton's recording career goes back 35+ years, and Jacqui Abbott's approaching 30 years. Between them they continue to produce strong songs with glorious melody and harmony.
Is there a duffer in the back catalogue of The Housemartins, The Beautiful South, and Paul and Jacqui's combined work? I'm not sure there is to be honest
And the videos they produce are none too shabby either.
Exhibit A: Too Much For One (Not Enough For Two) featuring Trev and Simon, and Phil Daniels