Graham Parker's reunion with the Rumour, which produced 2012's Three Chords Good and 2015's Mystery Glue, was the sort of thing that seemed too good to last, especially given the modest returns involved, and as it turns out, it was. However, it seems to have reminded Parker of what sort of band best serves his music, and 2018's Cloud Symbols has a sound and feel that recall his classic work with the Rumour, particularly 1976's Howling Wind and Heat Treatment, even of that band isn't on board. (The ad hoc band for these sessions, the Goldtops, does feature Rumour guitarist Martin Belmont, though he's the only holdover here.) Like the Rumour reunion efforts, Cloud Symbols lacks the ferocity and bite of Parker's earliest work, but the broad tonal palette and tight but comfortable interplay between the musicians recalls his roots in the U.K. pub rock scene, and the blend of the guitars, keyboards, rhythm section, and horns gives Parker plenty of room while also adding lots of personality and swing to the melodies. And Parker sounds like he's having a ball on these sessions; while his natural crankiness hasn't abandoned him, the easy swagger in his voice and the sparkle in his delivery are both comfortable and emphatic. It wouldn't be a Graham Parker album if he didn't have something to complain about, and being ignored by the object of his desire in "Nothin' from You" fills the bill, but for the most part Cloud Symbols finds him sounding either upbeat or rueful, kicking up his heels on "Girl in Need," contemplating a lonely weekend on "Every Saturday Nite," musing on the things he likes (or doesn't) in "Brushes," indulging his vices in "Bathtub Gin," and pining for a love who went away on "Is the Sun Out Anywhere." As both a vocalist and a songwriter, Parker once again shows his creative well is far from dry, sounding as consistently strong as any of his peers from the era when pub gave way to punk. At 67, Graham Parker isn't as angry or young as he once was, but he remains an estimable talent, and he's reveling in the pleasure of making music on Cloud Symbols. You may well feel the same way when you listen.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming