Pity poor Kevin Mark Trail, a man who has to try and emerge from the shadow of his one time employer. Not the tight-fisted boss who paid him �2.50, or even the minimum wage touting warehouse manager who managed �4.10; no, our Kev is going to have to work very hard to keep up with his mate Mike ‘The Streets‘ Skinner. But if we’re to believe his lyrics he’s not going to be to worried, there’s “no need to stress, just be the best I can be” he states on the track Perspective (his single from last year).
Whether being the best he can be is good enough is difficult to judge. When your introduction to the world comes via the current voice of a (chav) generation, you’re going to have to do something pretty special to impress on your own terms. The blandness of Trail’s approach, musically and lyrically, will do little to excite the more savvy listener.
With time, perhaps, he may open up and become a little more inventive, but with Just Living, he appears to have stretched himself a little too far creating an entire album. If this is Trail’s best, then he may as well quit now, and continue contributing to more vibrant performers work.
He has a great voice, but sadly his backing tracks are nothing short of woeful, and his lyrics lack the impact and wit of his former employer (Skinner, not the warehouse manager). The level of excitement reaches fever pitch in the track Bread, as Trail tries to emote about the trials and tribulations of family life. It turns out that sometimes his family has disagreements, and sometimes, they drink brew.
Although the sentiment of Bread is warming, and is to be commended, there is something lacking in the delivery. This is no match for Madness‘ ode to family life Our House for example. Instead, it is almost as misguided as Carla Lane’s sitcom of the same name. Trail is trying to define the landscape that created him and his music, but unlike The Specials, or The Streets, there is very little to hold the interest.
There’s not enough danger, or humour, and at times Trail seems to be more than content to sit in on a Saturday, watching Blind Date in his slippers supping on a fresh cup a cha. It’s not enough to prick the consciousness of today’s Thirtysomething, let alone the yoof.
While this album is unlikely to set many people running to the record store, it does have some redeeming features, namely Trail’s smooth R’n'B vocals. It would be churlish to write him off just yet, in fact given stronger material it’s likely we’ll see Trail surface as a strong vocal talent elsewhere. For now, the criminal blandness Just Living is a missed opportunity: just wait until he starts really living.