Despite his status as the lead guitarist in mod revivalists Ocean Colour Scene, longtime touring musician for dad-rock favorite Paul Weller, and recent support act for '60s-styled Beady Eye, Steve Cradock apparently doesn't take too kindly to being labeled as "retro." His second solo album, Peace City West, recorded over just a fortnight in between his duties for the former two, isn't likely to help his cause, thanks to 14 vintage-sounding tracks that undeniably evoke the flower power era of the Yardbirds, the Who, and, in particular, the Beatles. Indeed, the Fab Four's presence is stamped all over the record, from the Sgt. Pepper-esque ode to his Solihull hometown, "Finally Found My Way Back Home," to the Revolver-inspired blend of melancholic acoustics, timpani drums, and jaunty harmonies of "Only Look Up When You're Down," to the Middle Eastern cod-mysticism of "Interlude B" (one of three rather self-indulgent instrumental pieces, which unnecessarily break up the flow of the album), while Cradock's vocal tones remain uncannily like those of a certain Paul McCartney. Elsewhere, the slightly out-of-touch lyrical themes of the whimsical opener, "Last Day of the Old World," which deals with the digital music revolution, and the spacy psychedelics of "I Man," a diatribe against consumerism (the latter of which features a rather random guest guitar spot from The Inbetweeners' actor James Buckley), suggest he's been taking tips from Weller in the grumpy old man stakes, while the Hammond organ-driven "My Scooter Sits Idle" ("I put on my flares/Cos I'm just a boy at heart") reveals that his mod tendencies are still well and truly alive. But while it's ridiculous to argue against its derivative nature, the follow-up to 2008's The Kundalini Target is perhaps his best work in over a decade. "Lay Down Your Weary Burden" is a dreamy slice of steel guitar-laden old-school country, based on a poem given to him by Weller; "Steppin Aside," co-written and featuring his wife, Sally, is a convincing attempt at funk-rock, complete with unlikely slap-bass solos and Latin-tinged percussion; while the hazy fusion of fluttering flutes, sitars, and trippy female vocals on "Kites Rise Up Against the Wind" provides the perfect soundtrack for a lazy summer's Sunday afternoon. Peace City West is unlikely to convert those immune to OCS' pastiche sound, but while his day-job outfit may be past its best, Cradock as a solo artist is only going from strength to strength.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien