Richard Hawley, Further (Magic Quid/BMG) ****

RICHARD Hawley has broken the habit of a musical lifetime.

For the eighth studio album of a solo career celebrating its 20th anniversary, the former Longpigs and Pulp sidesman has eschewed his custom of naming the record after landmark locales in his home city of Sheffield.

Apparently he "wanted something that would capture the intention of moving forward but without jettisoning his past".

His move forward at 52 turns out to be more of a sideways step, in a case of Further, more of the same, but when that means he continues to match the remarkably consistent standards of his past Steel City outpourings, then who's complaining.

If anything, his moves forward came with his 2018 soundtrack for Maxine Peake's film Funny Cow and Hawley and Chris Bush's musical about Sheffield's Park Hill estate, Standing At the Sky’s Edge, at Sheffield Crucible this spring.

Made in Sheffield with regular co-produers Colin Elliot and Shez Sheridan, Further is compact, 11 songs in under 40 minutes. "I really wanted to challenge myself to try to keep things relatively up-tempo and keep the songs to about three minutes long," says Hawley of an album where his ever warm but worn baritone retro croon is wreathed in both optimism and awareness of time's passage.

"I was asking myself ‘Can you get your message across like a bullet? Can you still do that?’ It’s quite a tough question to ask."

Hawley answers that question by hurling a growling Rickenbacker guitar into the opening single Off My Mind, a song closest in psych-rock style and spirit to 2012's Standing At The Sky's Edge. "Playing like tomorrow may never happen," he calls it, and he could the same of Is There A Pill?.

Mortality and solitude play their part, the former in the pastoral Further, Midnight Train, the bruised blues of Time Is and My Little Treasures, a song 12 years in the making; the latter in Alone, a persistent stomp that olden Morrissey would love, and Not Lonely, one for Elvis's Vegas years.

"We’re all bombarded by so much hateful stuff at the moment that I was determined to make something that is really loving," says Hawley, and such romanticism permeates the gilded balladry of Emilina Says and the valedictory, escapist Doors.

Further investigation is recommended.

Charles Hutchinson