You may not know the name, but you’ll know Eg White’s work. After starting his career in ’80s boyband Brother Beyond, he left to produce a hidden gem of an record called 24 Years Of Hunger with singer Alice Temple. The ecstatic reviews didn’t match the sales, and it was here that White embarked on his most successful career to date – that of songwriter for hire.
White’s resume is pretty staggering – basically, if you’ve switched on a music radio station in the last few years, it’s a fair bet you’ll have heard a couple of songs. Will Young, Duffy, Adele, James Morrison, Charlotte Church, Natalie Imbruglia, Lucie Silvas and James Blunt are just some of the names who have benefited from White’s surefire touch.
It must be frustrating, putting in all the graft and craft but ending up with none of the glory. So here we have Eg White’s second solo album, only 13 years after his debut Turn Me On I’m A Rocket Man.
It’s a strange listen, falling pretty squarely between the flawless commercial pop that you might expect and some unexpected slices of quirky experimentalism. White’s voice is pleasant enough, if not particularly strong, but the whole album is produced so smoothly and professionally that all your attention is focused on his songs.
White is primarily a pop writer, so it should come as no surprise that each song is instantly listenable, with memorable choruses that would sit quite happily on daytime radio. Of all his many collaborators, it’s James Morrison who springs to mind, especially given the preponderance of mid-paced ballads and White’s vocal similarities.
Opener But California is a strangely slow-burning number for a first track, and while it’s atmospheric enough, it doesn’t really grab you by the scruff of the neck. Lead single Broken is a better example of White’s talent, a reflective and sad number detailing the end of a relationship. while Pay Later is probably the album’s most upbeat number, reminiscent of Robbie Williams‘ early years.
It’s not all straightforward pop on Adventure Man though. Weird Friendless Kid (previously sung by Emiliana Torrini) is as unusual as its title would suggest, an eerie number about the school misfit that seems to swing from sympathy (“I sometimes think I’d like to speak to you and find out who you are”) and contempt (“you bring everybody down”).
My People has a nice twist to it, starting off about how White used to be sad and lonely, thinking love would never come. In any other song, this would develop into a chorus about how the right person has come along – here though, White celebrates the fact that other people seem as down and depressed as he does – “my people, full of sadness and despair”, as the chorus puts it.
It’s not a cynical album though. Indeed There’s Going To Be Someone and If You Run cast White as the best mate giving his lovelorn chum some words of comfort, and work rather beautifully. The latter even features the lyric “get off your arse, and put on your pants” which must be a first in any romantic pop song.
If there’s a fault with Adventure Man, it’s that White has a tendency to lapse into cliches (apparently, “desperate times call for desperate measures”), and the album sometimes sinks towards blandness. There’s not much edge to be found, even on the more unusual tracks.
Alice Temple makes a reappearance towards the end on the excellent Pull Me Through, making one wonder what a full-length follow-up to 24 Years Of Hunger would have produced. However, if you’ve enjoyed Eg White’s work as a songwriter over the last few years, you’ll find plenty to entertain you on Adventure Man.