Freebass – It's a Beautiful Life
Can you put three famous bass players and a relatively unknown vocalist in a studio and hope for them to live up to expectations? Or at least not to merge into a mess of competing bass riffs?
Let's wack it on the Media Player and see…
Do we hear echoes of a Stone Roses intro here? Da, da, da, da, da, da, da da, daaaaaa daaaaaaaaaaa… and some floppy vocals to match? … `It's not too late…late for luuuuuurve'. Maybe, but the comparison ends after about ten seconds, as the tune cascades into a catchy, melodic number that wouldn't be out of place on Radio 2.
This isn't what was expected. Flying, roaring bass geetars? Nope, they're spooned into the background, allowing Gary Briggs' emotion dripping vocals and chorus to dominate… `It's not too late…late for luuuuuuuuuurve'…
What next? Violins and twinkly tambourine rattling give way to Briggs again, sitting his voice in the sad café, served by some twanging bass … `it feels like I'm sinking like a stone, I know we'll never be the only ones alone'.
Just as the soft rock vibe begins to grate, the tracks Lady Violence and The World Won't Wait allow the hard rock caffeine to kick in, the geetars come to the fore. And Briggs is left whining some really crass lyrics come choruses out the back window… `The world won't wait, catch it if you can'…eeeyuck!
Almost half way through and it's beginning to sound like the band are apologising already… `This is not what I am, this is what I've become', repeated over and over, complete with violins again… almost like an epitaph for the project.
The album's rescued for three minutes with the bassy, dubby, ska-ry Stalingrad, a relief from Radio 2 `adult orientated rock' and a release from Gary Briggs' pain in the hearts vocals.
However, it's back to AOR on the next tracks, Secrets and Lies and She Said, with nothing choruses repeated over and over, complete with girly backing too on `Secrets and liiiii- eeeeeessssssss'… The parrot on the cover is well apt.
The God Machine is slightly less horrid and Plan B meanders its bass soundscapes to the album's withering conclusion.
So, back to the original questions - Can you put three famous bass players and a relatively unknown vocalist in a studio and hope for them to live up to expectations? Or at least not to merge into a mess of competing bass riffs?
The answer to the second question is a yes. For the most part the superstars aren't competing to sound the loudest, or heaviest, or cleverest. An untrained music ear wouldn't even know that the guitar parts were dominated by three of the world's most famous bass players.
The first question, unfortunately, is answered with a resounding `No'. A Beautiful Life isn't anything like what anyone might have expected. It's not harping back to Madchester or Morrissey melancholia. Neither is it trying to be so, so hip or too, too cool. But A Beautiful Life is a major let down because it's not very original, interesting or exciting. No-one expected hard rap or nu punk or anything. There's just nothing here to arrest your ears or psyche. Just the usual moaning about lost lurve and stuff. No magic.
It's also lost in time. The recession's biting. The Tories are coming. Good music moves forward with a reaction to what's happening – be it in technology or socially. This sounds like it was put together in a studio with nowt else going on outside. Torpid and timeless.
A Beautiful Life might work in the mid-west States where they love this kind of stuff but could you slap it on your car CD driving around Salford? No way – in case anyone heard it at the traffic lights and thought you liked Phil Collins too!
Splitting up was probably in the best interests of everyone…
A Beautiful Life is out now on Hacienda Records.
Click here for more details.