Ian Brown - The World Is Yours (Polydor)
10 Oct 2007
the album to 'bury everything else i've ever done', if you believe king monkey himself; release - '07
If there's something to be said for Noel Gallagher, it's that while his music is diminishing in returns, he does apparently understand the finer aesthetics of pop. He believed a greatest hits album should be the final thing you do, in order for it to be a true retrospective; as opposed to a stop gap, or record label money spinner. Both U2 and R.E.M. succumbed and so, as it turned out, did Oasis. He's right, because such albums dissect ongoing bands' careers, and not always to their advantage; after all, how do you follow up a collection of cracking singles? It is in this unenviable position (if it is possible to not envy people who have presumably made a tidy packet from said greatest hits) that Mr Ian Brown now finds himself.
It seems that Ian Brown has been around forever, yet despite this has barely aged. Is he Madchester's Cliff Richard? And as with that great man, and all other lasting brands, (as evidenced by Marmite even using it for their marketing), views are generally polarised; you either like him, or you don't. As long as enough people like you, you carry on and, of course rather remarkably, that is what Ian Brown has done. By some he is held dear as the birth monkey of Liam Gallagher, the resurrection and purveyor of strutting, bombed-out hip-hop/dance influenced rock (not much then), while to others he's simply an arrogant, weed-smoking hippy with a book of 6th form rhymes who blew his best chance with the demise of the Stone Roses. It's unlikely this album will change that, although it is a change if not in direction, then certainly approach.
The album starts promisingly with the sweeping title track, which is perhaps an attempt at a Bond theme, the title certainly is, and after all, if Madonna and Sheryl Crowe can get one without writing an actual tune, why can't he. It even features a chap called 'Goldfinger', which Sheryl Crowe evidently was lacking. Most surprisingly it's a success, with swelling strings, shuffling beat, a narrative-laced lyric and strangely seductive vocal, a phrase not generally associated with Ian Brown. This is followed by 'On Track' with its thumping hip-hop beats, rhythm and tempo, which is echoed with slower, even phatter beats and ska-flecked keys on 'Eternal Flame'.
Despite the lush orchestration - and it really is done very well - whether, as he hopes, this is the album to 'bury everything else (he's) ever done' is debatable. The production certainly reins things in, with clipped guitar solos and deep baselines from various members of the Sex Pistols and the Smiths, but there is little sense he has an overwhelming need to write lyrics. Instead you can almost hear the chewed pen, and occasionally cringing sound desk engineers, in his droll delivery.
However, he reaches a purple patch half way through, with 'Some Folks Are Hollow' which has a disarmingly gentle lyrical rhythm, although not without a few clunkers, while the underpinning strings effectively strengthen his almost breathless statement. There's a brief vocal from Sinead O'Connor in the coda, which you wish had been sooner. This sophisticated atmosphere continues into 'Goodbye to the Broken', which at least until he start singing, could actually be from the Casino Royale soundtrack, with genuinely affecting, less forced, lyrics working with the symphony, which wrings out the regret.
The album certainly loses any subtly on the single 'Illegal Attacks', in which he, ably assisted by Sinead O'Connor, thankfully clears up any outstanding questions regarding the legality of Western involvement in the Middle East. But if heavy handed political lyricism (is there other sort) is your bag, then this is for you.
With a gorgeous reprise of the title track, you are left slightly underwhelmed. Is this his first dinner party album? With its languorous beats and classy strings, that's not necessarily a bad thing; it's certainly mature and what previous albums have possibly lacked is that this grows and rewards repeated listens. It is certainly a coherent and tender record that is far better than anyone could have expected this far into the man's career; Cliff Richard had better watch out.
Stream 'Illegal Attacks' from 'The World Is Yours' HERE.