Having spent his teens and early twenties as timekeeper/noisemaker with pioneering English homebrew primitivists the Swell Maps, this Birmingham native (who relocated to London) could probably have released tapes of his kitchen putterings and earned avant-garde kudos. When he decided to make his solo bow — after interim stints in the Jacobites (led by his brother, Nikki Sudden), Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls — Epic Soundtracks (born Paul Godley) did something considerably more audacious: he remade himself into an utterly charming singer/songwriter, inspired by the heyday of the Brill Building and all but untouched by the hipster musical lexicon.
Rise Above drew some notice on account of cameos by J Mascis (in his ancillary role as session drummer), Rowland S. Howard, Lee Ranaldo and Kim Gordon, but those guests maintain a respectful distance from center stage. As a result, Epic is free to shine brightly on such spry odes to l’amour as the ecstatic “Meet Me on the Beach.” It’s on the more melancholy tracks, however, that clever turns of phrase give way to heartfelt intimacy: “She Sleeps Alone/Love Fucks You Up” paints a hazy, poignant pastel of a fast-lane denizen’s off-hour misery. There’s considerably more optimism coursing through Sleeping Star, which often approximates the warm, jamming feel of a vintage Band record — an impressive feat when you consider how much of the project is essentially solo. Epic’s warm baritone has grown more confident; while he spends a bit too much time rhapsodizing about the liberating power of rock’n’roll (as on “Something New Under the Sun”), his enthusiasm is contagious.
He manages to retain just enough of that intimacy to overcome the rock conceits that permeate much of Change My Life. Much more ambitious than his previous solo efforts, the album loses momentum when Epic tries to affect a hard-guy edge. He’s much better off when he’s unabashedly starry-eyed, as on a no-fi CD bonus medley of Alex Chilton’s “Nightime” and “Thirteen,” or “Stealaway,” which adds horns and tubular bells (!) to the mix and allows him to indulge his Spectorsound obsession.
Debris is a limited-edition collection of outtakes, rarities and radio session tracks.
Epic was found dead in his London apartment on November 6, 1997. Suicide was the suspected cause. He was 37.