Steve Mason's superb second solo album sees him make a welcome return to a more experimental style that characterised his former combo the Beta Band. It also reveals deep anger at the current political situation. Mason's melancholic and troubled introspection is still present - now shot through with a new hopefulness - with the tail end of this 20-track album containing his most politically overt lyrics to date.
Sound fragments ease you from one track to the next as Mason's evocative and haunting vocals ghost through one genre to the next. Gospel tinged numbers with rousing melodies sit comfortably next to dubby instrumentals and snippets from interviews and speeches, including an eerie Tony Blair soundbite describing Libya as a "gold mine of a country".
Mason deals directly with his history of depression during several tracks. "Lonely" contains lyrics such as "I'm lonely in my head /fifteen years sitting in my bed". His most poppy number "Oh My Lord" captures neatly the feeling of coming through such periods when he sings "and there's a passing through the black/is that sunlight through the crack?"
Such reflections combine supremely with harmonies on "A Lot of Love" and "Seen it All Before". The album has a genuine bittersweet feel with Mason giving expression to the feelings that an alienating system generates.
The focus changes towards the final third of the album as Mason switches to enraged political commentary and collective possibilities - a sign of the level of anger towards the coalition government. MC Mystro takes over on "Money Money, More Fire" to provide a raging and thorough three-minute analysis of the causes of the 2011 riots.
"Fight Them Back" - a protest song with fierce lyrics including "get up and fight them back/a fist, a boot and a baseball bat" - combines with a deceptively understated musical backdrop to become a call to arms. Fans have been responding thrillingly to it at recent gigs.
Many themes and genres are contained within this one album, making it hugely enjoyable and distinct. Mason's deft lyricism contains hopeful visions for the struggle to come. As he sings, "where do we go from here/it's clear".
Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time is out now