The Beautiful South’s Paul Heaton was, in his pomp, one of the finest British pop songwriters of his generation, a witty, soulful northern poet, a Morrissey that brandished a scowl instead of a gladioli.
But that prime is a long time ago; after his old band split in 2006, other members have regrouped as The South, touring the hits, while Heaton’s two solo albums charted outside the Top 40. Makes sense, then, that he would reunite with his most popular female foil Jacqui Abbott (though not his best - that title for me goes to previous South singer Briana Corrigan).
Abbott and Heaton are visibly delighted to be singing together again after 14 years (their album ‘What Have We Become’ just charted at number three), precise and fluid in their movements and melodies.
And though the Dolly Parton pastiche ‘DIY’ recalls the dark days of the likes of ‘Perfect 10’, among their new tracks there’s plenty to mean you’re not just biding the time until another Beautiful South or Housemartins oldie, from the Welleresque Northern-soul stomp of ‘Moulding Of A Fool’ via the heavy fuzz guitar and dramatic piano of ‘Some Dancing To Do’ to the sweeping ballad ‘When It Was Ours’.