English singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner burst into the charts back in 2007 with his debut album Hand Built By Robots and catchy signature single Dream Catch Me. Faulkner’s distinctive appearance – a bit like Sideshow Bob with dreadlocks – and his unique style of guitar playing set him apart from anyone else around at the time. His follow up album, 2009′s Rebuilt By Humans, did not quite have the same impact, but it was nevertheless well received.
His third effort, Write It On Your Skin. is an album which demonstrates that he is as consistent as ever, even if there are no stand-out songs. The album kicks off with Pulling Teeth, a song that pretty much sums up the entire LP. It’s an upbeat, punchy number with a catchy chorus that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Like much of Faulkner’s material it is relatively harmless and unremarkable, but then the same could be said of Coldplay‘s back catalogue, and they seem to do fine.
Soon is another MOR track, but one where the quirky little chorus and Faulkner’s soothing vocals shine through, while second single Clouds is an unfussy and straightforward acoustic track. The uplifting lyrics and simple guitar melody are pleasant enough, but like most of the album, it lacks the ‘wow’ factor.
Pick Up Your Broken Heart is more distinctive, but only because it is eerily reminiscent of The Goo Goo Dolls‘ Iris. It eventually develops into a sweeping but rather bland chorus, during which you can imagine hordes of X-Factor hopefuls belting out identically emotional versions, one after the other at Bootcamp.
Write It On Your Own is not a bad album, but neither is it a memorable one. That said, it is better than Rebuilt By Humans, with Faulkner sticking rigidly to a 10 songs of a similar format, three-minutes long songs. The title track is an example of this no-nonsense structure, while Long Shot also sees Faulkner at his most powerful and engaging best as his beautiful vocal dominates.
Ultimately Faulkner’s third album shows his qualities as a songwriter, his ear for a melody, his impressive vocals and lyricism. The main issues with the album are caused by Faulkner’s cautious approach and unwillingness to step out of his comfort zone. There is nothing on the LP that suggests Faulkner has been tempted to try something different in his three years away. A case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it? Maybe, but in that direction, staleness awaits.