Some things can be taken as given. Such as, despite selling shedloads of records, Razorlight were never very good. Even before the sheer MOR mediocrity of their post-2005 output and the Good Saint Borrell’s cod-angelic Bob Geldof-lite political posturings helped to permanently cement the well-earned scorn that they now seem to consistently attract, there was always an air of the naff about them; this was surely a Strokes tribute act fronted by Nigel Tufnel.
But all that’s in the past now, at least for recently departed ex-drummer Andy Burrows (A.K.A. I Am Arrows). Now flying solo after a mystery divorce from Boz and company (“personal reasons”) and fresh from apparently suppressing his burningly accomplished multi-instrumentalism, Burrows has gone all Todd Rundgren on us. Sun Comes Up Again is not just a solo album by Burrows, it’s solely a Burrows album, with no outside songwriters or session musicians to speak of, just the multi-talented Mr Arrows, a room full of instruments and – most importantly – the uncontrollable outpouring of musical ideas that tends only to come with a musician’s departure from a group stifling their valuable creativity (see: All Things Must Pass, Astral Weeks).
It’s all delightfully over-produced by Noah And The Whale knob-twiddler Eliot James, who oversees what is for the most part a refreshingly laid-back blend of contemporary indie pop, with just about everything that was good musically about the mid-to-late ’70s – lashings of lazy West Coast folk, blue-eyed soul and beardy soft rock. But the album’s two most uncharacteristic songs are placed right at the beginning. Opener Nun, all Razorlight (gulp) guitars, gated drums and daft electronic bleeps, provides an effortlessly irritating start to the whole affair, whilst pseudo-white funk number and highly questionable first single Green Grass follows hot on its tail with the most convincing Maroon 5 impression we’ve heard since, well, Maroon 5.
As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, it plays host to the unwelcome second (and, thankfully, final) appearance of the aforementioned annoying bleeps, which add nothing to the song and serve only as a kind of ever-present background irritation, akin to accidentally opening a webpage featuring a noisy banner advert and being forced to listen to the talking smilies clashing jarringly with whatever it is you’re trying to listen to at the time.
Luckily, these songs are just temporary blips, and starting with the irrestistable ELO-alike piano rocker Nice Try, the album really begins to come into its own, moving from strength to strength during the 37 minutes it has left to impress. Intricate folk pop ditty Far Enough Away is driven by some tasteful Spanish guitar lines lifted straight from Al Stewart‘s Year Of The Cat. The harpsichord and Moog-laden The Us resembles the very best of the early power pop pioneers, and features an unexpectedly Oriental-sounding middle 8. Another Picture Of You is an urgent, driving number with a superb closely-harmonised, double-tracked vocal from Burrows and plenty of metallic, Kraftwerk-esque lead guitar flourishes. Rootsier rocker 50 Feet High features in abundance the kind of semi-mocking gospel backing vocals perfected by the Rolling Stones, whilst the perfectly confessional Bruises features a chorus that easily brings to mind the Eagles at their most precious.
It’s not a perfect album by any means; some of the more cutesy numbers can border on the twee, and at 44 minutes it’s far too long for a collection of songs that essentially sound very similar. But it is an extremely promising debut, and a warm, breezy and openly-referential antidote to the hordes of cacophonic pretenders taking themselves far too seriously. Plus, of course it’s light years ahead of anything Burrows ever did with Razorlight. Even the Maroon 5 song.