Ian Brown - My Way
Posted by Kuang on Mon, 12 Oct 2009.
The ex Stone Roses frontman seems to be more eager than ever to leave his musical past behind, and his sixth solo album ‘My Way’ seems to be blunt weapon with which he hopes to do so. Whether it succeeds depends on where your allegiances lie, but we’ll come to that later.
My Way is quite a slow burner, never particularly picking up the pace from the sparse opener Stellify, which was apparently written as a track for Rihanna. It’s very bare, only lifted occasionally by a Teardrop Explodes horn section, and doesn’t seem able to punch the album’s authority home. It eventually peters out to give way to the oppressive hip-hop backing of ‘Crowning Of The Poor’, which barks far louder than it bites. Brown’s lyrics seem to want to point out the class divisions in modern life, yet lines like ‘Palaces do fall and crumble / Dynasties do take a tumble / Birds will sing, the Earth will rumble’ just have you waiting with gritted teeth for the next couplet and wondering if Pam Ayres was somehow involved.
‘Just Like You’ doesn’t raise the game much either, sounding like a cross between ska and disco put through a beat slicer and without any dynamics capable of making you sit up and listen - this fairly flat emotional range seems to be a theme running through the whole album. An unexpected cover of ‘In The Year 2525’ brings a brief respite, but you can thank Zager & Evans for that as Brown’s reworking doesn’t add anything new to the original.
‘Always Remember Me’ is one of the highlights for me, slow and shoegazy, and sounding more like the introspective Brown we knew from the heady Madchester days without the slightly uneasy sense of ego that began to surface after the Roses split. A closer listen reveals elements of the longstanding antipathy with Roses guitarist John Squire, and that theme surfaces a few times over the rest of the album, leaving you to wonder how claims of leaving the past behind can sit comfortably alongside tracks that just dredge it all up again. ‘By All Means Necessary is probably the most pointed expression of this, and also the most uncomfortable.
When all’s said and done, if you own more than one Ian Brown album then My Way will probably work for you. I just find it too subdued to really get into, and never got used to his unique voice outside the context of introspective indie. Above all, the bitchiness that surfaces from time to time just makes me want to reach for a Roses CD and forget the unpleasantness ever happened.