OWD015 Surface Industries II – Paul Rooney


OWD015 (2023)

Digipak CD/digital album

CD £10 including UK p+p

or buy digital files via BANDCAMP

The lyrics of Paul Rooney’s third solo album Surface Industries II, like it’s predecessor, are themed around service industry occupations, this time focussing on roles in retail, banking and hospitality, often using interviews with the workers themselves. The songs describe transient everyday customer interactions and repetitive drudgery, but also reveal creative moments of playfulness, mischief and vengeance. The music is voice led with a spoken word and choral focus, but it often collides real voices with synthesized, digitally processed mock/real chimes and beats that echo the laminated, wipe-clean, customer-captivating environments the songs emerge from.

Something Happening is an arpeggiated Arp re-working of Sound of the Crowd, with the words of a Sheffield bank clerk whose branch is on the site of the dancefloor where The Human League’s Jo and Suzanne were ‘discovered’ by Phil Oakey. It also features an affecting lead vocal by original Pulp member Saskia Cocker. The up-tempo, longform spoken word piece, Dear Guest, contains a hotel room attendant’s descriptions of debris left after three moments in the history of the Manchester hotel where she works, and touches on the Peterloo Massacre, a Bob Dylan heckle and a room service breakfast tray. There are pieces inspired by library staff, a nightclub singer’s lost voice, domestic kitchen work, a Big Issue seller’s favourite pitch, a hotel maid’s Pirate Jenny-influenced daydreaming, and shop workers’ sleeping dreams. The latter, In the Distance the Dawn is Breaking, mixes pitch-shifted piano with a slow-motion vocal harmony that describes a dream of flying in an eerily silent plane, a moment of haunting beauty and unsettling helplessness. This collection is the final part of a long-term, poignant and reflective project – a sonic encounter with everyday failures, everyday battles, and everyday resistances, pertinent to our precarious times.

Surface Industries I I tracks:
1. Something Happening (Sound of the Crowd) (with Saskia Cocker) 4:36 video
2. In the Distance the Dawn is Breaking 3:20
3. Dear Guest 9:00 video
4. Open Plan 4:13
5. On This Pitch 4:40 video
6. A Million Darkened Kitchens (with Frankie Armstrong) 4:11
7. Tea, Coffee and Desserts 2:48
8. Dust 7:50 video
9. Willem van Liverpool 2:29 
10. In My Head 1:41
11. Author’s Route Through France 3:34 
12. Psalm (live at Tate Liverpool) 3:31 video


Meg Woof (The Wire magazine online). Online album preview and video. Sept. 2023

Surface Industries II together with Surface Industries I… are very important… they will be historic documents…” Zaph Mann, In Memory of John Peel Show (KFFP Radio, Portland and podcast). 8/9/2023.

“…that’s a very distinctive track so do get Paul Rooney’s album Surface Industries II.Roger Hill, PMS (Melodic Distraction Radio). 3/9/2023.

“Excellent stuff, Festive Fifty contender possibly? Certainly that would be one on my shortlist… Dear Guest. Great stuff.” Rocker (Dandelion Radio). Sept. 2023.

“One of the most interesting artists I know… this stuff needs to be checked out…” Gavin Hellyer (Bandcamp website). Sept. 2023.

“Something Happening… It’s really interesting this, it’s Paul Rooney.” Michael Fenton (Fenny), On the Wire (Slack City Radio and Mixcloud). 20/8/2023.

“One of the most, if not the most original local musicians at the moment, composer, creator, is Paul Rooney… totally recommendable, on Owd Scrat Records… it’s so good.Roger Hill, PMS (Melodic Distraction Radio). 12/8/2023.

“To me, the stuff [Paul Rooney] is making these days is as significant as the history stuff that’s on the Smithsonian Folkways [label]. It will go down in the future as a very important thing… this is Open Plan.” Zaph Mann, In Memory of John Peel Show (KFFP Radio, Portland and podcast). 25/8/2023.