Hey look! It's him out of The Verve. You know, the band that shifted the opinions of a nation full of lager swilling blokes in to opening up their emotions after hearing a small piece of orchestral music sampled from a Stones cover. Whilst we're all for musical diversity and the like, it annoyingly made for pointless singalongs at festivals and woke thousands up when morons sang the melody through the quiet evening streets.
After The Verve split, Richard Ashcroft decided to go it alone by himself and make records that kind of sounded like The Verve but never quite got there. Imagine a toddler trying to walk but falling over. Achievement nearly reached, but sadly it didn't work. Though we still enjoyed his solo stuff but would settle for it over anything from X-Factor [Speak for yourself – Ed.]. Now he's back after ironically reforming The Verve for nostalgic festival appearances. Then they split again. Hmm, we guess Richard never knows what's going to happen next. Isn't he crazy?
Cue the red siren and a loud shrieking noise.
We can thankfully report that this isn't a solo album from a member of a successful indie band who has gone all electronic on us. Not there is anything wrong with Thom Yorke and Kele (from Bloc Party?s) recent output, but anything resembling a Casio keyboard on a Richard Ashcroft solo album would sound totally out of place ? kind of like a sober Paul Gasgoine. The reason being that he isn't associated with music that comes out of machines.
In fact, this Richard Ashcroft album took us by surprise. Of course, assumptions got the better of us and with an album entitled United Nations Of Sound; we expected a strange collection of world music ranging from traditional Amazonian ceremonial tribe music sandwiched between recordings of underwater crab mating rituals to push experimentation that little bit further.
But no, what we find here is an album that has been genuinely well worked upon in studios across the world. The assumption that this has been done in a bedroom studio in Brixton can't be taken at all. From Los Angeles to New York, part of the process has been taken out here. And overall what the album gives is a warm feeling of genuine passion and flare.
However, with this record comes with some aspects of past nineties elements that some may wish to regret.
In the track Born Again there seems to be a certain point where the vocal descends in to drunken festival shriek and Ashcroft is trying to communicate to us, encouraging the ropey sing a long where no-one bothers. Urging us to almost shout and prance around with the record is weird. However we would do this after multiple pints of super strength foreign lager.
One of the most exciting parts of the record is the use of the string section that develops a depth to the recording process. Working with instruments isn't as easy as plucking a guitar in a kitchen whilst sipping a coffee. Genuine thought and care has gone in to this and we do appreciate the efforts that Richard Ashcroft has produced.
Is it worth your money? Yes, because the well known tones and style of Ashcroft still shines through but the initial fears of string instruments through hardcore indie lovers will be met with heart warming melodies that will win them over.