Tim Arnold: I Am For You (TA Records)
Something is happening for Tim Arnold and it isn't being bought by a huge publicity budget from a major label. He's been there done that and lost the t-shirt. An honest, simple and slowly developing vibe is catching the public's imagination via word of mouth and the sheer strength and beauty of his songs, and of one song in particular. Poverty always has been a mistress to invention and a good idea isn't reliant on cash. His latest album, a melodic sampler of emotion, longing and frustration, betrays a maturing talent that has finally arrived with a wonderful bottle of sparkling distillation to pour into the ears of the unsuspecting. Varied and sensual this is a record that won't disappoint. Integrity cannot be faked and here it shines through and effortlessly beguiles.
Proceedings begin with a wonderful piece of taped personal history. The eleven-year old Tim is being interviewed by his mother, the actress Polly Perkins, about writing and what drives him to be creative. That it has survived for over thirty years is astonishing but it is a perfect prelude and a prediction from the past of what he would do in a future here and now that has arrived. Touchingly called "Mother's Intuition," it flows easily into the gospel tinged "Love Will Not Hurt" a searing anthem with spiritual tinges. "Anybody's Guess" is a perfect Soho 60's postcard that begs, borrows and steals from the Zombies. The Small Faces and The Beatles to emerge strongly as itself. Harmonic and up-lifting the song stays in the mind. The title track "I Am for You" is a power ballad which kicks off with the thought "If time doesn't heal, don't think, only feel" -- a sage-like sentiment that isn't always the advice one wants in a situation of emotional crisis even if it is true. Dramatic, swirling and honest with a mantra like catchiness, impressive is a word that aptly explains its power. "Crying Colours" has the ache of uplifting lamentation that mirrors the bedsitter maladies of Cat Stevens and Al Stewart "I'm crying colours / turning tears to light" is spiritual, visual and just beautiful in the saddest of ways.
"365 Days Of Love" appears as an infectious perfectly laconic scene changer, just what is required before melancholy takes over the mood entirely, possessed with a psych pop sensibility and echoes of Paul McCartney in its deceptive lightness of touch. "Won't Fall For You" reveals a piano and guitar moodiness, the kind of song Coldplay often ruin with a mundane set of lyrics. A perfect promise of a longing lover's intentions it swirls and swoons and grows into a mini epic. "I Know By Heart" reminds me of the aching ballads of Tom McRae, a sparkling little gem that is all too swiftly over, whilst "Paris" borrows the conceit of Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To My Lovely" without the monotony. It lists all the best things that the city of art and romance promises but bows out with the line "It's what you take to Paris with you." Sometimes honesty can be clever without being smart.
"Change" is the piano under-pinned treasure of mood and refinement somewhere towards the end. Think Jobriath's "Inside" or the laments of Bill Fay. "The hardest goodbye I'll ever say is the one that will kill you if you walk away..." and you know Arnold means what he sings because he has lived it. The video is a stark piece of dramatic artistry. Simply the face of the legendary dancer and performance artist Lindsay Kemp portraying the words of the song in stark monochrome it is the most haunting, beautiful and profound piece of subdued eloquence. Brave and true with an unsettling element oozing from each and every frame, it isn't by any imagination's stretch a piece of standard pop fare. "Love Locked" has an upwards stride to its rock tinged drive, a radio friendly tune that should win friends and influence people and echoes the pained introspection of Jeff Buckley, a punch of need and desire with the knowing wink and confidence of a crowd pleaser.
With "What Love Would Want" Tom Arnold reveals that he has kept the best 'til the last and that simplicity defeats complexity. It has a slow and certain, almost hidden rage that is rooted in frustration, passion and confusion:
"From my door the barriers you see I never saw.
In my mind you talk about a problem I can't find."
A sheer hymn of modernity and acceptance the song that has taken on a life of its own as a project of projection and poise. Couples turn up at events to be photographed becoming a backdrop to the song's evolution. Stephen Fry and his husband appear fleetingly in the song's video. There is no barrier to the couplings, they are simply paired and in love, and of all ages. The lyrics "He is for she. She is for he, He is for he. She is for she." raises from a slow angry growl to a pained yelp for impassioned understanding. Arnold finds the world that nurtured him is under threat and he doesn't quite understand the hatred and the fear. He was raised by his mother in her same-sex relationship and her world gifted along to her son was inclusive, moral but non-judgemental on something as fundamental as sexual orientation.
And at the end we return to the beginning. Tim Arnold has finally answered his mother's gently probing questions about his burgeoning creativity with assurance and grace. You can't ask for more, but more is yet to come because he has stumbled upon a Pandora's Box that reaches the heart of anyone in touch with theirs, and has the songs to reach beyond his initial spark of creation to help him along the way. A song won't change the world but it will sweeten the experience of those that stop and take the time to listen.