Ian Brown’s fifth solo album is about the big issues. And while he's picked all the right targets, lyrically and musically it’s still a bit disappointing.
Ian Brown’s fifth solo album is about the big issues, features some big stars, and is dominated by a big string section. Unfortunately, the big string section is featured on every single track, and there isn’t that much else to listen to.
Strings are great and all, but over-using them is no different from over-using a wah-wah pedal or slap-bass. As a result, there are no real stand-out musical hooks - it’s all beats, bass lines and lush strings and there’s little room for anything else to make its mark.
The big stars, meanwhile, are barely noticeable. Unsurprisingly, Andy Rourke (The Smiths) and Paul Ryder (The Happy Mondays) sound like session bass players, and the tracks Paul Cook and Steve Jones feature on are a million miles away from the Sex Pistols. Sinead O’Connor makes more of a mark on ‘Illegal Attacks’, with an almost whispered performance.
The big issues – homelessness, war, famine etc, are tackled with gusto but not that much sophistication. The album is filled with well worn platitudes like “Beauty’s only skin deep.” “We will be together until the end.” “We had it all and we threw it away.” Some refer to this sort of thing as “simplicity”, “directness” and “honesty”; it's certainly simple, but it’s a bit lazy.
But Brown’s also got a big heart, and while his turns of phrase, celebrity pals and string productions aren’t original, his positivity is. So fair dues for ‘Street Children’ in which Brown sweetly wishes he “had a home, with ten million rooms, I'd open up the doors and let the street children through" and kudos for ‘Illegal Attacks’, a no-holds-barred protest song about the war on terror. Brown and his big guns have picked all the right targets, but lyrically and musically it’s a bit disappointing.
Oh Jesus. This reminds me of the time I got my Dad to rap. Granted, we couldn’t afford an expensive-sounding backbeat – unlike Brown, who puts a brilliant marriage of chugging strings and delicate harp arpeggi utterly to waste. The tooth-grinding rhymes and turgid flow are truly horrendous, and the best part of the song arrives in its closing seconds, when Brown lets guest star Sinéad O’Connor sing without his tuneless groan sprawling all over it.Read More
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Ian Brown, aka King Monkey, has been letting his simian minions down ever since leaving the Stones Roses. Embarrassing posing with Noel Gallagher and shambolic live performances have seen him become a ‘Madchester’ caricature. The annoying thing is that his solo stuff can still be quite decent at times, as ‘All Ablaze’ ably proves. Delivering his lyrics in an understated manner over mellow eastern-inspired rhythms, this single won’t set your stereo on fire, but it won’t make you want to hurl it out the bedroom window either.Read More
It was always going to be a bit messy. Students being students you couldn’t but have expected the odd scuffle, girls vomiting on their expensive ball gowns, lads pissing wherever there was a wall and thousands of well dressed revellers drunkenly stumbling around the courtyards of Trinity College. What was unexpected though, certainly for a first timer, was just how good a night the Trinity Ball is. This was an event streets ahead of most outdoor events. Everything was well organised, queues for loos and bars were minimal, and security didn’t make themselves felt. It meant that all were allowed to just get on with the night at hand and enjoy Europe’s largest private party.Read More
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I get the feeling he’s cleverly surrounded himself with a bunch of musicians who can take a lot of the credit – the right people to do justice to his own particular writing style.Read More
This string-laden opus sounds much like everything else Brown has done in his solo career to date.Read More