A/V Room









Ian Brown - Solarized

Review: Jack Foley

AFTER a strong opening, the fourth album from Ian Brown becomes a curiously self-indulgent affair that becomes less and less likeable.

The first half is classic Brown, boasting strong vocals (for a change), luminous beats and that cool vibe that has made the artist king monkey ever since his heyday with the Stone Roses.

The second half, however, attempts to bring in too many different styles, feeling a little too experimental for its own good, and sacrificing the listening enjoyment as a result.

The album will probably remain most notable for featuring a collaboration with another Manchester music legend - Oasis singer/songwriter, Noel Gallagher, who co-wrote and supplies backing guitars and vocals on the anthemic former single, Keep What Ya Got.

It certainly represents the album at its strongest, even if it pretty much sounds exactly what you'd expect from the partnership.

Aside from that, album opener Longsight M13, which takes the form of a musical tribute to the part of Manchester that still shows the legendary 'Free Ian Brown' graffiti, features some typically well put together beats and backwards guitars.

While the Mexican trumpet-fanfare that heralds the arrival of Time Is My Everything is a nice touch, particularly as it gives way to a suitably trendy beat for Brown's laidback vocal style.

Strong, too, is the poignant, keyboard-driven Upside Down, which talks of famine, plague and the upside down nature of the world - it finds Brown at his most contemplative.

But after the halfway point, the album becomes much more hit-and-miss.

Home Is Where The Heart Is feels too dub-heavy by far, and plods along, while the Eastern-rooted guitars of One Way Ticket To Paradise feel a little too obtrusive to the vocals, which probably find Brown at his weakest. The welcome female vocals at the end of the track are a nice touch, but do little to redeem it.

A distinctly South American flavour runs through Kiss Ya Lips, complete with some nice mouth-organ, before getting lost amid its electronic work-outs, which don't really suit Brown's style.

The track is notable, however, for being political, taking a swipe at Home Secretary, David Blunkett, and his proposed ID cards, and the invasion of privacy that Brown clearly feels it represents.

But final track, Happy Ever After, is another case in point, coming across as a rambling, heavily electronic affair, with plenty of Eastern overtones, and no vocals - hardly the way to end an album which is all about Brown, the singer.

I suppose you have to praise the artist for being brave enough to seek out new musical directions, but far from leaving the Monkey mafia feeling happily ever after, it gives rise to a sense of disappointment - which, after many listens, is the overall impression for the rest of the long-player.




Track listing:
1. Longsight M13
2. Time Is My Everything
3. Destiny Or Circumstance
4. Upside Down
5. Solarized
6. The Sweet Fantastic
7. Keep What Ya Got
8. Home Is Where The Heart Is
9. One Way Ticket To Paradise
10. Kiss Ya Lips (No I.D.)
11. Happy Ever After

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