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Paolo Nutini - 'Pencil Full Of Lead'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:48 UK time, Monday, 26 October 2009

Paolo Nutini

Can I just say something, before we get into talking about my favourite song from one of my surprise favourite albums of what has turned out to be my favourite year (apart from 2003)? It's simply this: Old-fashioned things are neither automatically better or automatically worse than modern day things, they're just older.

This is a sentence everyone should carry round with them at all times. It would solve a lot of tedious chat using words like "vintage" and "seminal" and "authentic", or "cutting-edge" and "innovative" and (absolutely the very very worst worst of all) "zeitgeist".

There are things which are good, and there are things which are not good, and that (as Girls Aloud, who are good) once said, is that.

(Here's the video. Bet that never happened to Wallace & Gromit.)

I mention this because Paolo's latest is a transparent homage to the pre-rock 'n' roll jumpin' jazz of Louis Prima - the man who sang 'I Wanna Be Like You' in The Jungle Book. It's also got some touches of early Elvis to it, especially the harmonies, and a harmonica solo that Stevie Wonder would've been proud to have played.

There are no guest rappers, no modern production effects on his voice, no lyrics about current TV shows, nothing about sleazy sex in hotel rooms, nothing about alienation, nothing about the state of modern urban youth and no disco stick.

He does, however, mention having a pencil full of lead, and if I'm not mistaken, that's a saucy metaphor. Either that or he's been sold a lot of lead-less pencils in his time, and after all, what is a pencil without lead but a stick?

The most modern thing about this very old fashioned sort of a song is that it's one long brag from start to finish about the stuff Paolo has got, a bit like the rappers do, but on a lower budget and a lot more romantic, cos best of all (best of all) he's got his baaaayyy-BEEE.

And it does not automatically make this song warmer, more real, or more worthwhile compared to anything by, say, the Saturdays.

No, the thing that makes this song warm and real and worthwhile is that it channels the spirit of something which is always a lot of fun, and then has a lot of fun with it. What else do you need?

Well, that and the fact that Paolo can sing most of it without breathing in.

Five starsDownload: Out now
CD Released:November 2nd
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)



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