6 years on from his first post BNL release of Page One, Steven Page is in a strange place. His bio blurb describes an artist who isn’t feeling comfortable calling himself an artist (more at https://www.stevenpage.com/about/) This suggests an album from a man who isn’t exactly comfortable in his own skin, yet still suggests someone with a strong message to get across. The approach mostly works on his second post-BNL release “Heal Thyself, Part One.”
Intro “There’s A Melody I” is a swift rumination on trying to get that perfect note, and could almost play as a veiled explanation to the gap between albums. Things kick right off into “The Work At Hand” and “Here’s What It Takes” - both songs spin lively, fast-moving tales that fit in neatly with the album’s title, as both are chock full of Page’s wry observations on how to improve oneself, injected with the kind of wit that is unmistakably his. Elsewhere, he channels a Beatles-meets-Beach Boys 60’s pop vibe on the elegant “If That’s Your Way” - a song that plays like a kind of sequel to the delightfully awkward “All The Young Monogamists” from Page One.
Page’s sardonic wit is still a strong instrument, but he occasionally dips back into a well he’s been in far too many times before. “Mama” is an amusing vaguely political-satire driven lark, but some of the quips are too obvious, such as “The liberals will take your guns / And then they’ll take your children and the terrorists have won” -- too much of a callback to the right-wing-skewering venom of earlier BNL track “Fun & Games” - a moment where this kind of zinger is deployed in a far more effective manner. Lead single and just-past midway marker is a burst of fresh air - “Surprise, Surprise” shows Page shaking off his demons and extolling the virtues of finding your way back from rock bottom. Refreshingly, this time around, the sentiment is more universal, where before it was tinged with not-so-thinly veiled jabs at his former bandmate Ed Robertson.
Bottom line, Heal Thyself Part 1:Instinct is an album worth the wait, with some reservations. Tagged as Part 1, it gives the impression that the upcoming Part 2 will have gems of its own, along with a handful of uneven tracks. This suggests a classic setup - the best of the 2 parts could be collected to form a truly amazing album all on their own - listeners will have to wait till part 2 arrives to see if this theory holds up. In the meantime, for BNL fans who’ve missed his presence in the band since he left, or just Steven Page fans antsy for new songs, “Heal Thyself Part 1:Instinct” is still worth a look.