SIMON TODD – Half Empty/Half Full (Ginger Tom Music GTM002)

Half Empty/Half FullSimon Todd’s new release Half Empty/Half Full is his second CD, following from Contracts For The Sale of Land in 2009. It’s nearly ten years, but it’s worth the wait. Half Empty/Half Full has ten strong songs, Todd has an appealing voice, which has a good range and makes well written lyrics easy to hear.

The video below is of ‘Send Her Home To Me’. Todd describes the song as “The closest I get to a love song” – in that it’s a love song from the point of view of a cuckold “if I remember it right/it was a bright clear night/ when you took her away from me”. It’s rather classy – gentle singing from an unreliable narrator so that you’re torn between thinking ‘Ah, that’s sweet’ or ‘idiot’ or ‘Might the woman not have a say in this?’ Without hitting you over the head to claim your attention, this is rather good songwriting.

‘The Last Step’ is similarly clever – a series of idioms joined into an up-tempo track and held together by the concluding line “the last step that you take you take alone.” Wisdom or cliché? It doesn’t matter, it’s a good song and it works. ‘Judas Kiss’ is similarly lively and foot tapping.

If there is a wryness to these songs, the opening and closing tracks ‘Down To The River’ and ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’ show a different side to Todd’s writing – faster paced, more raw, a raspier vocal driving them forward. There is breadth as well as depth to Todd’s writing and playing.

‘And I Get Weak’ has my favourite opening line of the year “We laughed at the Dodo/Shot it where it stood” and builds into an anthem to challenge modern priorities (for example, “we build aquariums to simulate and please/whilst pumping toxic waste into the seas”. Genius). You could easily get a crowd singing along to this. ‘Poppy Fields’, an image we no longer associate with nature but with war and death, also has some stark images, this time of Douglas Haig’s trench warfare strategy “Sacrifices under fire/Virgin boys left screaming on the wire/Staring eyes that died alone/I’m sorry but your son’s not coming home”. There’s a punch in that juxtaposition.

Todd describes the album as having come from considering similar situations from alternative perspectives. ‘Think Of Me’, for example, takes the theme of a separated couple but gives a very different view to ‘Send Her Home To Me’. It is more equable, capturing day-to-day realities and summarizes “Just think of me/Maybe I’m still here”.

Although this pairing of perspectives may have been the creative source, and has led to the title of Half Empty/Half Full. I’ve heard the album as a collection of well written individual songs which stand on their own, from a man who “places equal importance on lyrics, melody and chord structure”.

A look on Todd’s website shows a history of gigs in the USA (mainly Texas) as well as the U.K. (mainly the north east). The website doesn’t show any planned gigs at the moment – which is a pity, as this album is well worth a listen and really ought to open up Todd’s songwriting and performing to a wider audience.

Mike Wistow

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Artist’s website: http://www.simontodd.co.uk

‘Send Her Home To Me’ – live: