Recorded live at a series of coffee bars and other venues (including a home studio in the West Bank town of Ramallah) singer-songwriter Nigel Parry’s This Side of Paradise describes a hell-on-earth situation which, judging by current news from Palestine and Israel, gets worse by the week.
Parry, who spent some time teaching at Bir Zeit University, has first-hand experience of life during the intifida so it’s not surprising that This Side of Paradise is fuelled with a passion that’s aroused by the injustice of recent Palestinian history. The title track catalogues the painful smallness of lives disrupted and destroyed; the impossibility of leading anything like an ordinary existence. If some of the imagery can be at times heavy-handed or the rhyme-schemes a little obvious (Tel Aviv and relieve), any teeth-tingling is outweighed by the overall impact. The emotion of these economically instrumented songs may be firmly on the side of the Palestinians, but Parry is wise to concentrate on the human tragedy – ‘Elapse’, one of the strongest songs, concerns a student who was shot by Israeli troops – rather than the messy, political reality.
At best, Parry’s combination of acoustic guitars and drums works well in such well-aimed songs as ‘Forget’, a diatribe against Iraqi sanctions or the unforgettable image of tanks ringing Ramallah. Songs to leaven this, such as ‘Julia Roberts’ Smile’, sit strangely in a disc whose recommendation is its deftly managed intensity.