Street Date: Richard Ashcroft Juggles Genres on 'United Nations of Sound'
The man behind the legendary single, “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” abandons the captivating alt-rock of [lastfm]The Verve[/lastfm] for a record that embraces the longstanding influence of classic soul. [lastfm]Richard Ashcroft[/lastfm] still has his trademark Brit-croon that blends soul with spit, but unfortunately its power is stripped by the lackluster arrangements and experiments littered throughout United Nations of Sound.
Across thirteen tracks, [lastfm]Richard Ashcroft[/lastfm] does his best to combine each of musical influences: Motown, psychedelic, and alternative rock. Unsurprisingly, the result is a hodgepodge record. Ashcroft was never one to shy away from experimenting with vocal arrangements and studio trickery ([lastfm]The Verve[/lastfm]’s third album, Urban Hymns, was flooded with effect processing), and here he unabashedly whispers, grunts, and yells emphatic “yea”s like [lastfm]Rick Ross[/lastfm]’s hype-man. A heavy use of wah-wah guitar solos and lush string arrangements polarize his vocals, revealing [lastfm]Richard Ashcroft[/lastfm] to be less of a soul man than he thinks.
The most interesting elements of the record come from ‘Your Highness,’ which sounds like an impression of [lastfm]John Mellancamp[/lastfm]’s ‘Jack And Diane,’ and ‘Good Lovin’,’ one of the only songs on United Nations of Sound with both the vocals and instrumentation complementing each other. Apart from them, most of the other tracks sound like [lastfm]Bruce Springsteen[/lastfm] b-sides. ‘Glory’ has the stomp you’d expect from the boss’ stadium show, but without the working man’s emotion. When [lastfm]Richard Ascroft[/lastfm] goes for Top 40 R&B on ‘Live Can Be So Beautiful’ and ‘She Brings Me The Music,’ the mark is embarrassingly missed. Uninspired lyrics do little to buoy the songs (“Grab something to eat/ran in to her”), and the repetitive hooks of ‘Are You Ready?’ and ‘Third Eye’ are a far retreat from the anthemic choruses of [lastfm]Ashcroft[/lastfm]’s back catalog.
The record is not one long misfire, however, which might be impossible given [lastfm]Ashcroft[/lastfm]’s knack for writing an epic pop melody. Album closer ‘Let My Soul Rest’ sounds like [lastfm]Bono[/lastfm] on The Unforgettable Fire, and ‘How Deep Is Your Man?’ has a vicious blues riff that finally puts the guitarist to good use on United Nations of Sound. Far from satisfying, the record will at least remind us how grateful we are for [lastfm]The Verve[/lastfm].
1. Are You Ready?
2. Born Again
4. This Thing Called Life
6. Good Lovin’
7. How Deep Is Your Man?
8. She Brings Me The Music
9. Third Eye
10. Royal Highness
12. Life Can Be So Beautiful
13. Let My Soul Rest