Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Album Review - Newton Faulkner - Write It On Your Skin

Newton Faulker: Ginger, dreadlocked guitar-man who performed a miraculous version of Bohemian Rhapsody at T in The Park 2010. He's released two albums before this one ('Hand Built by Robots' and 'Rebuilt by Humans'), each 18 tracks long, leaving this ten-tracker falling a little short of expectations. No more dreamy interludes with a "Sitar-y Thing" whining away. No sign of another "She's Got the Time" variation. He is moving in a more pop-y direction, further along the line that his second album pointed him in, foreshadowed by Rebuilt by Humans' "Badman". There is a clear difference between the first two and this one.

Although the first track, Pulling Teeth, has the harmonica of the preceding album's "Lipstick Jungle" and Soon has some slightly slappy guitar playing and some very sitar-like trickles, the songs on this album are a lot more commercial and - though I dislike using the word - mainstream, at the independence and quality's expense. Only one song one here has been written by Newton Faulkner on his own. The lyrics are no longer as graceful and pensive as they had the potential to be: they're very much more descriptive and their melodies have been written from a singer's perspective rather than a guitarist's. Despite this decrescence of both quantity and intellectual quality, however, the songs are an easy listen, catchy, and (in general) a little longer than those on his previous album, so you're not cheated on playing time. And he does play some nice guitar tunes (for want of a better description), for example on the third track, Brick by Brick. Thankfully the lyrics of the eighth track, In the Morning, provide you with reassurance that it's the same person creating these songs as wrote those of the past two albums, though it's a little soporific musically.

Unfortunately, in this album there are some melodies that don't sound overly original, notably the verses for Pick Up Your Broken Heart (so very like The Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" ) and the following song, Long Shot, which is reminiscent of the song which Fiona sings in Shrek, blowing up a bird ( ) . Here I'm also going to, rather churlishly, pull him up on the tinny recording of the vocals at the beginning of the title track. It wouldn't have taken much mastering to sort that out, in all honesty. The whole track sounds pretty tinny on my laptop, to be fair, but even when played elsewhere the opening vocals are still slightly hair-raising.

The penultimate track should have just been recorded live, in my opinion, as it's just him and his guitar and could do with the natural atmosphere and applause of an acoustic night to keep it simmering. And said lacking applause is when the album should finish, Sugar in the Snow having been moved to just in front it, because although this last track is a nice wind-down, I'd rather finish the album on a high, thanks.

Overall verdict?
Nice, but Newton, dahling, you're letting yourself go...

Music Like This:

  • Jason Mraz - for a singer/guitarist/songwriter who's heading in the same direction.
  • Ed Sheeran - though I hate to say it, they're starting to have more in common than the hair colour...
  • John Mayer - like NF only his songs are written from a guitarist's perspective.

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