It’s interesting to note that Vagabond – four unassuming looking fellas and one mop-haired hunk – have toured with everyone from James Morrison to McFly to The Saturdays since they formed in 2008. This goes some way to explaining the quandary this album finds itself in.
Produced by pop’s most forward-thinking production house, Xenomania, you’d expect delicious slices of electropop like Call The Shots; experimental flourishes a la Biology, or maybe just a retro-soul ditty like Gabriella Cilmi‘s Sweet About Me. Instead, we get what sounds a lot like Simply Red but with extra keyboards.
You Don’t Know The Half of It struggles to work out what kind of album it wants to be. Opener Sweat (Until The Morning) is a fairly middling slice of blue-eyed soul, singer Alex Vargas’ smooth croon weaving in and out of soft strings and a polite beat. Elsewhere there are flashes of Xenomania’s influence, not least in the synth rushes of I’ve Been Wanting You and the treated guitar riff of I Hope You Know Better. Both tracks start promisingly enough before retreating back into MOR territory, leaving the listener struggling to remember much about them.
It’s not all bad though. Recent single Don’t Wanna Run No More is a nice acoustic strumalong with a pretty chorus. Most importantly Vargas keeps the vocal histrionics to a minimum, allowing the song to grow up around him. Smile Of Mona Lisa is another heart-broken ballad that rings true, showing that mid-paced soul is probably where their heart lies.
Lyrically, the album focuses on being in love with girls, loving girls in the Biblical sense and being without girls. Sweat even features the opening line “Late at night I come around, you give smiles and we get down”, which might actually be a Simply Red lyric, and leaves a pretty bad taste. Much of what Vargas is singing is lost anyway, the words cowering beneath his mannered croon that begins to grate halfway through.
Essentially, Vagabond are the British One Republic. Both bands make relatively catchy but undeniably dull songs that have been spruced up by producers who should know better. Timbaland had the sense to ditch One Republic after one song. Let’s hope Xenomania get another call from Girls Aloud soon.