26 July 2010

Richard Ashcroft - The United Nations of Sound (Parlophone)

Richard Ashcroft has decided to create his own super group, but not of the usual Brit-pop faces you would expect. The on/off verve front-man has decided to go all New York and recruit hip hop producer No ID, Mary J Blige’s guitarist Steve Wyreman and a couple of old Mowtown fellas for his new project Richard Ashcroft & the United Nations of Sound

On the record, Richard Ashcroft is a man trapped in his own mould. He constantly references the tried and tested themes that made him a force to be reckoned with in the 90s. Yet, for anyone who owns A Storm in Heaven to Ubran Hymns, the stench of repetition and mediocrity that made his solo material so off-putting is prevalent. As usual his rhetoric remains, but without Nick McCabe’s guitar behind it – even with the inclusion of crisp beats and panoramic strings – it lacks the musical substance to back it up.

The album does begin well with the hefty ‘Are You Ready’, but things quickly falter with the bland ‘Born Again’, followed by the bizarre ‘America’, which sounds like two disparate musical worlds on a head-on collision – the result is not pretty . Albeit, this album is not as bad as his early 00s solo work, which saw the great man diluted to Radio 2 friendly fodder. However, the attempt at a more eclectic record sounds interesting on paper, but in reality the miss-mash of styles don’t quite come together. To compound things, his hired guitarist peddles the trite Ibrahim Aziz lead lines that made some of the early Ian Brown solo tracks an almost pastiche of Squires guitar playing on ‘Second Coming’ – a move often thought intentional on Brown’s behalf.

Aschroft is still one of Britain’s finest songwriters, but unless he is in the presence of McCabe or UNKLE he rarely seems to push himself and make his music truly great. Ultimately, this is typical solo Ashcroft fare, trite, middle of the road and slightly narcissistic, just dressed up a little more than usual. Let’s just hope The Verve can bury the hatchet for one last time and elevate one of England’s greatest songwriters back to his former status. [rating:1.5]
  • Addict Music, review by Chris Cummins