Given the official Britpop seal of approval by no less than Oasis‘ Noel Gallagher, this album is essentially a showcase for the undoubted talents of singer-songwriter Howie Payne. That the album is ultimately something of a mixed bag is not so much down to Payne’s obvious abilities as a songwriter, but that the performances on this album simply do not do justice to the material.
Part of the problem is Payne’s thin, reedy voice which, although occasionally sounding like John Lennon before he smothered his vocals in reverb and multi-tracking, most of the time just can’t carry off the tunes… And there are some great ones dotted around this album.
One of the best is When This River Rolls Over You (one of several songs on the album that appear to owe more than a passing debt to one Neil Young), but then there’s also the Beatles-like The Big Parade and Here She Comes Again, which could easily be mistaken for the Velvet Underground song of the same name.
I Need You and The Love You Give, both titles that also betray the influence of the Fab Four, evoke memories of the Byrds, circa Fifth Dimension, while it’s easy to imagine the title track gracing one of the early Oasis albums, and, indeed, it would have been greatly enhanced by Liam’s snarling delivery.
No problem then with the breadth of references to rock’s golden age, but like any number of British bands of the past 15 years (Ride, Teenage Fanclub, Cosmic Rough Riders etc.) the size of the record collection doesn’t always equal memorable pop songs, merely derivative ones. For all the variety of songs on offer here, and the admirable brevity of the album (a shade over 41 minutes) there just isn’t the contrast of setting and mood necessary to sustain the interest.
Payne’s voice, too, really does start to grate after a few numbers, partly because sometimes he tries a little to hard to be expressive and, instead, comes over simply as over-mannered.
It’s easy to see how, 10 years or so down the line, Payne will have carved himself out a cosy little niche as a jobbing songwriter while his fellow band members have disappeared back into obscurity. That’s a pity because in many ways this is an impressive, ambitious album – it just seems to fall short in the final delivery.