26 June 2000

MTV reviews Alone With Everybody

Although Alone With Everybody begins with a pompous blast of portentous string tonnage, making you think Elton or Whitney is about to bellow, have no fear. Richard Ashcroft's solo debut is everything you would expect from the former Verve mastermind who regularly hangs with fellow dreamer Noel Gallagher, who composed the classic "Bitter Sweet Symphony," and who is also regarded as one of Britain's finest songwriters.

Alone With Everybody is nearly an instant classic, a bittersweet muse on rock as a dream, as ultimate concept art inspired by tales of longing, love and survival bathed in epic orchestration and classic rock and roll sounds. Anyone of lesser talent would have turned this high-art rock and roll cavalcade into a sprawling mess, but through his exhilarating vision and glorious melodies, Ashcroft turns possible cliché into enchanting triumph.

Everything here is permeated with a pastoral melancholia, as if Ashcroft has been worshiping at the altar of Jimmy Webb or Neil Young. But the music is also laced with a breezy, buoyant feel that is the brilliant intoxicant of all great summer records. It's both great escape and utter introversion, full of buzzing rock and bitter ballads encapsulated in a sun-flecked blast of good vibrations.

Though the lead song title, "A Song For The Lovers," recalls a corporate ad campaign (as does the album's constant use of trademark symbols in the artwork), the music is irresistible. Ashcroft's gripping voice spins a beautiful melody, arcing high and low over the song's theme of hard won life's lessons. Lovely acoustic guitars introduce "Brave New World," soon joined by BJ Cole's prismatic steel guitar, yet another ingredient in this grand production. Here, Ashcroft sounds stoned and serene over a lilting groove, a daydreamer with talent and time to burn.

"New York" hints at Ashcroft's dark side with eerie guitars and trip hop drums, but the bad mood is quickly dispelled in the Nashville Skyline sheen of "You On My Mind In My Sleep," a peaceful meditation on love that sounds like the bastard child of Jimmy Webb and Beggars Banquet era Keith Richards. Ashcroft rocks even more in "Crazy World," but it's more Liam Gallagher than Mick Jagger. Ashcroft is basically a cerebral slacker, butt-shaking rock and roll really ain't his thing, though the Stones Exile on Main Street seems an apt inference for the choogling "Money to Burn."

"Everybody" closes it all out with a feel-good missive which is pure '60s "Get Together"-styled flowers-and-peace puffery. Nonetheless, it's a joyous finish to one of the most convincing and refreshing debuts in recent memory. How can Ashcroft remain alone after this?
  • Source: MTV, written by Ken MiCallef