In a matter of weeks Mullen turns forty. He wanted to do something substantial to celebrate. So, he put together a motley crew of stellar, well-respected, local musicians and former band mates to set about writing and recording his first album of new music since 2012.
Our appetiser for his forthcoming album is this single, I Need More Books, and the years I’ve spent knowing Paul and discussing music wirh him leave me safe in the knowledge that there are nods and flourishes that speak of a whole host of recording artists. There’s some Weller here, some Beatles even (given the harmonising with long-time friend and draw on the Merseyside music scene Steve McKenna). But I think perhaps most obviously, intentional or not, is the comparison that can be drawn with The Travelling Wilburys. I Need More Books could easily be dropped into their ouvre and who’d argue it sounds out of place? It wouldn’t. I tested it this morning. There’s also elements of the retro folk movement, the likes of Pokey LaFarge and Devil Makes Three are surfacing here.
Away from music, Mullen is a poet. Many readers of this site might know him for that above anything else, but I would say that this track is lyrically far less Bukowski and Ferlinghetti inspired, and much more Andrew Gold. Subsequently, this is safer than his written work, but the very title is a knowing gesture: he retains a foot in both camps.
Musically, the song isn’t a rock anthem. Rather, it’s a mature pop song that owes much to country music and rock ‘n’ roll stylings. The brass and keys add depth and give this a fuller sound to Mullen’s Little Wing work (when the rawness was ever so important). Mullen is developing as a songwriter. He’s becoming increasingly concerned with the craft and how music is wedded together, this is obvious. The track is guitar driven, but not guitar heavy. It’s about the whole band and better for it.