Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Round-up: Brett Anderson's solo debut

On Monday, Brett Anderson popped up on Gideon Coe's 6Music show to offer up a couple of tracks from his new solo album. Coe asked him about the wall of male voices on the record, prompting Anderson to reveal it was all him and multi-tracking, but allowing that it did sound like he had a backing band:

"A team of homosexual monks, or something."

We've always assumed that, since nuns are officially "brides of Christ" that that must imply that monks have some similar exclusive relationship to Jesus, but we're not going to start opening a theoretical can of ecclesiastical worms with that one.

So, how has the world been reacting this bunch of secular singing monks?

The Telegraph takes the opportunity to ponder how Anderson managed to have his face dropped from Britpop's metaphorical Mount Rushmore:
It seems strange then that, while Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker and the Gallagher brothers are all being bestowed with reverential status, Brett Anderson has become the lost boy of Britpop.

[Anderson says] "I don't think people like me. I've been making records for 15 years, and I still read personal, vitriolic things written about me. It's as if I accidentally created some alter-ego that isn't the real me, and people really react against it."

As if to remind people of Brett's central role in the birth of what eventually became Britpop, BBC News lobs up that cover of the then-controversial Select which told the "yanks to go home."

Elsewhere on the BBC's website - apparently the spineless Trust haven't yet closed down in a panic in case it harms sales of Reader's Digest - BBC Music considers the album, and finds it weeping:
So personal troubles may have been replaced with reflection but this signals an evolution in Brett Anderson…deliberate or natural. It may be too doleful for some, missing his former edge, and energy and some fans may be alienated by the change in direction.

Lost his edge? Pitchfork think he's lost something more upsetting: tells me its natural for men to experience a drastic decline in their sex drive as a consequence of aging. This is basically also what Brett Anderson tells me with the release of his first solo record. Granted, in the pantheon of Britpop-era sex gods (there's a scary visual), Anderson seemed the most impotent of the bunch; witness his now-famous quip about being a bisexual who'd never had a homosexual experience. Nonetheless, there was a time where Anderson's sexuality was his main currency, and it was powerful enough-- even in its messiness-- to provide the charge for two, maybe even three, great albums.

In The News' review suggests they're also experiencing drive difficulties:
[OracleException: ORA-00904: "nsumerNewsCodeStructure_Codes4"."Parent": invalid identifier]
Oracle.DataAccess.Client.OracleException.HandleErrorHelper(Int32 errCode, OracleConnection conn, IntPtr opsErrCtx, OpoSqlValCtx* pOpoSqlValCtx, Object src, String procedure) +1000
Oracle.DataAccess.Client.OracleException.HandleError(Int32 errCode, OracleConnection conn, String procedure, IntPtr opsErrCtx, OpoSqlValCtx* pOpoSqlValCtx, Object src) +21
Oracle.DataAccess.Client.OracleCommand.ExecuteReader(Boolean requery, Boolean fillRequest, CommandBehavior behavior) +3112
Oracle.DataAccess.Client.OracleCommand.System.Data.IDbCommand.ExecuteReader(CommandBehavior behavior) +42

It's easy to fling "IntPtr opsErrCtx, OpoSqlValCtx*" at Anderson, but how come the Gallaghers can get away with "String procedure, IntPtr opsErrCtx" after "String procedure, IntPtr opsErrCtx" and still get treated at the Brits like they're relevant?

The Manchester Evening News suggest that rather than being a new direction, this is little more than rehab-strength Suede:
The man himself won't approve of this comparison, but many of these tracks sound like off cuts from a Suede album. Imagine the band ditching the drugs and booze for a few early nights and some Horlicks-this is the general feel of Brett, the album. But this man's relaxed tunes are better than many other artists' full on hyped-up emptiness.

We're trying to imagine what something full of emptiness would look like. It's straining our heads a little, to be frank.

To help us, the Scotsman deploys former Suede fan Fiona Sheppard to suggest that empty fullness would be, well, a lot like Brett:
It would be very satisfying to see Brett Anderson find a post-Britpop niche in the way that his old nemesis, Damon Albarn, the Blur frontman, has, but it's sounding highly unlikely with this squandered opportunity to go on. Surely a first solo offering from someone with as eventful a life to draw on could have produced a more atmospheric, confessional, comedown album rather than this insipid, say-nothing affair.

The Times' John Mulvey hopes a bad review will, at least, give Brett something to mope on for his sophomore album:
Windy, sentimental ballads predominate. Dust and Rain revisits the shop-soiled glam and drug analogies of peak-period Suede, but Anderson seems too weary to carry them off with any style or conviction.[...]

Ironically, it is Damon Albarn, Anderson’s oldest rival, whose eclecticism now marks him out as this generation’s Bowie. Anderson, meanwhile, must take solace where he can — at least another bad review gives him something new to be despondent about.

The Guardian (a newspaper, of course, that we like to read) catches the prevailing reaction and summarises it perfectly:
There's a fair bit of self-indulgence here, but the former Suede leader has a way with these things, and the result is generally listenable.

In other words: he does this sort of thing all the time, but at least he does do it well.

The response, then, seems to be a little lukewarm, but certainly isn't as bad as some of the reviews Anderson has had since England took against him. Channel News Asia's Today asked him how he copes with so much negative commentary:
"What these people have to think about is: When they die, what kind of beautiful things will they have left in this world?" Anderson said. "I'm no Mother Theresa, but when I make music, I do try to make the world a better place."

Back when Suede were the best new band in Britain, apparently, the national papers used to hang around outside the old offices of the Evening Argus hoping to get hold of pictures of Brett dressed as a soldier in a school production when he was six. It's to his old local paper that has landed the best interview of the current press round so far. Now, foolishly, answering to The Argus, the paper gets a gruff admission from Anderson that the Suede-era man so many reviewers detect in the solo artist never really existed in the first place:
"He was, he now admits, "Carefully, but subconsciously, trying to construct an image.

But don't let anyone in a band fool you into thinking that they don't. Nirvana are supposed to be the anti-image band but that was their image. It's about creating the myth."

The only trouble with building your own myth, as Anderson is now discovering, is it's hard as hell to live up to. The new record is pretty damn good - certainly better than anything Oasis have done in years, arguably more interesting than Good, The Bad and The Queen - but how can Anderson ever hope to outperform the ambisexual hipgod who crashed in with the Drowners?

Decide for yourself: Buy the album


Hendrik said...

Arguably more interesting than the GBQ record ?? I beg to differ....

Franco said...

< geek >
I also beg to differ: the Oracle error is some twonk who's decided to reference a database table which is either missing or wrongly named.
< /geek >

simon h b said...

No joke about computer errors can ever withstand the harsh glare of people who understands technology. Apart from the one about the difference between a Sinclair QL keyboard and a nun's arse, of course.

deadly lampshade said...

They seem to have fixed that page now, which is rather disappointing. I won't be seeing it quoted on a big orange sticker on the CD box, then? Damn...

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