At first glance, Richard Walters appears to have made the logical approach in moving onto his second album. The singer-songwriter, originally of Oxford but now residing in Paris, has deployed on these songs a full band and a broader sound to convey a wider range of emotions. However, much of Pacing was in fact written as far back as 2007, before Walters’ well-received debut album The Animal was even released. Walters’ collaborator, Bernard Butler – formerly of Suede – was distracted by other projects, resulting in this record’s delayed completion. The extra time, though, is reflected the care and attention evident in this mature and accomplished album.
Nothing here is groundbreaking, for sure – Walters’ often delicate voice is not alien to the sphere in which he operates, and his new found affection for more electric instruments, keyboards and the occasional machined beat is a hallmark of the current crop of developing singer-songwriters. Lyrically, Pacing is also largely concerned with familiar relationship issues, and Walters’ heartfelt proclamation that his love will endure until the ‘End of the World’ – which naturally is the final song here – is hardly a curveball.
No, what makes this record a worthy effort is the earnestness and professionalism of its songwriting and performances. Detailing the dilemma faced by a couple trying to hold it together for just a little longer, ’14 Days’ dominates the more rhythmically upbeat part of Pacing, which in another conventional move is frontloaded to the album’s first half. Walters could be accused of leaning a little too heavily on repetition of his choruses on these energetic early tracks, but their capacity to uplift cannot be doubted; their thumping drums and soaring strings handled as carefully but effectively as we could hope.
Polished, considered and fuelled by genuine and palpable emotion, Pacing is a thoroughly solid outing for Walters, who at 28 has a great many years of musical development ahead of him. For the time being, however, his music is simply lacking that special spark, that compulsive hook or musical idea that keeps us coming back. Easy to like but difficult to truly feel strongly about, perhaps Pacing will be better followed by a slightly more reckless and ambitious effort next time Walters returns to the studio.