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Mr Hudson - Straight No Chaser

Mr Hudson, Straight, No Chaser

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

MR HUDSON used to be known as Mr Hudson & The Library. But while he’s dropped the latter part, he’s acquired Kanye West, a vocoder and a greater emphasis on electronic sounds.

The result, on sophomore LP, comes with West’s approval ringing in his ears and a heightened sense of the mainstream – and as a result is only partially successful.

West has gone on record as saying: “I believe Mr Hudson has the potential to be bigger than me, to be one of the most important artists of his generation.” It’s high praise indeed from an artist whose not backwards in coming forwards with attributing praise where he believes it should be. But it’s a huge exaggeration.

Mr Hudson is amiable. But he’s not doing anything groundbreaking and appears straight-jacketed at times by West’s presence and production sensibilities.

Straight No Chaser is competent, slickly produced and fun in places. But the over-use of vocoder, and a heightened sense of string-based synthesizer becomes repetitive. It also does his vocals a dis-service. Comparisons with Chris Martin have and continue to be made… but too often his vocals are dwarfed and undermined by West’s production values.

At its best, Mr Hudson delivers guilty pleasure moments such as former single and album opener Supernova, which hits some euphoric heights, boasts a catchy chorus and a decent trade-off between Hudson and West.

Title track Straight, No Chaser is fairly decent, too, while the melancholic tone and delivery of Instant Messenger offers a nice change of pace and a better showcase of Hudson’s vocal range. He emotes downbeat well and is capable of falsetto highs. It’s a highlight and the album could use more of such moments.

Stiff Upper Lip is another favourite – a brazenly honest observational song that has a lower key beat, some nice banjo licks and provocative lyrics such as “we’ve never been as f**ked as this… I can’t keep a stiff upper lip anymore”. It’s one of the moments that West’s endorsement doesn’t seem as misplaced, but again the album needs more moments like this.

The urban synth sound of artists such as Timbaland and Kanye himself is evident on Everything Is Broken, which is a better example of how Mr Hudson has been able to achieve such crossover appeal (both in terms of music genre and trans-Atlantic fans), while Lift Your Head drops a nice hip-hop beat with some pop melodies and tinkling piano chords to emerge as a pleasing hybrid of West and Coldplay.

But in between such moments, there are times when the album is content to play to its own formula and tracks tend to sound the same and become stifled.

The result, while never entirely bad, could (and probably should) have been a great deal better.

Download picks: Supernova, Lift Your Head, Stiff Upper Lip, Straight No Chaser, Instant Messenger

Track listing:

  1. Supernova (feat. Kanye West)
  2. White Lies
  3. Knew We Were Trouble
  4. Straight No Chaser
  5. Learning to Live
  6. Instant Mesenger
  7. There Will Be Tears
  8. Stiff Upper Lip
  9. Central Park (feat. Joy Joesph)
  10. Anyone but Him (feat. Kanye West)
  11. Everything Is Broken (feat. Kid Cudi)
  12. Lift Your Head
  13. Time
  14. Forever Young