Album review: Richard Ashcroft - These People
PUBLISHED: 08:00 31 May 2016
Former generation-defining sonic shaman continues his search for credible reinvention.
Despite the six years since his last record - the post-Verve-reformation damp squib United Nations Of Sound - it feels like the Brit and Ivor Novello-winner still hasn’t found his melodic map and run aground yet again.
His previous ill-advised forays into electro spheres haven’t deterred him from trying yet again, opening here with the strident, dancefloor-ready workout Out Of My Body.
It’s not an encouraging start, his bruised vocals jarring against brittle synths - but the ante is quickly upped by plodding moanfest and recent single This Is How It Feels, which bludgeons genuine ennui with slovenly moans and horribly shrill, one-dimensional strings.
He might have brought Will Malone back on board, who worked on the string arrangements for The Verve’s A Northern Soul and Urban Hymns, and Verve co-producer Chris Potter, but the magic proves all but impossible to recapture here.
Ashcroft was apparently inspired to put pen to paper after witnessing the Arab Spring and horrors of the Syrian civil war unfold on the TV news, but much of what results is underwhelming and flat, further hurled into irrelevance with indulgent, drawn-out arrangements and lyrics that rarely fire the imagination or squeeze the heart.
The mellifluous, Verve-esque indie of Picture Of You and Black Lines serve to suggest Ashcroft’s best output may be behind him, despite his conviction otherwise. They also reinforce the dangers of electro-dabbling when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Just because Ian Brown can nail his synth-and-beats expeditions doesn’t indemnify this Wigan wonderer’s fifth solo album against some frustrating sonic fails.
Rating: 2/5 stars
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