Album Reviews

Barry Adamson – I Will Set You Free

(Central Control) UK release date: 30 January 2012

Barry Adamson - I Will Set You Free

Former Magazine bassist. Ex member of the Bad Seeds. And The Birthday Party. Visage and Depeche Mode contributor. Sometime film soundtracker. It’s a somewhat sprawling CV. Still, you suspect it almost certainly wouldn’t get Barry Adamson a job in Pret.

It’s a sprawl that I Will Set You Free reflects. This is a restless, wandering record, sliding from songs that could easily have crawled out of the same swamp from which was born DIG!!! LAZARUS DIG!!!, through funky lounge shuffles, grinding, garage-rock dirges and glammy, David Bowie-like moments.

Like any sprawl, some bits are more worthy of the layover than others. I Will Set You Free is the one that reminds most of Nick Cave‘s influence, sleazy, seedy and snake-hipped. Destination is a slightly more refined version of The Stooges‘ Penetration, with the same endless energy and the same grimy swagger, but just being a touch more grown up about the whole damn thing.

These bits sound worldly. Rounded. Interesting. With tales and scars, and endless yarns. They display all these interesting embellishments, runs of piano here, parp of brass there, but have enough weight behind them to support it.

The less successful bits buckle somewhat under the strain of the gilding. The finger-clicking, head-nodding, wine-supping, jazz-clubbing Black Holes In My Brain and The Power Of Suggestion are slightly dull, while Looking To Love Somebody falls uncomfortably close to funk pastiche, rather than building something fresh on the foundations of the influence.

Nevertheless, the constant shift in tone and tempo does keep you engaged and, as the US Military will attest, the thing with a scattergun approach is that it is statistically likely that some of your shots will find the target. Even if some will hit innocent bystanders.

Most of the time though, the aim is pretty true. Trigger City Blues is the most obviously filmic track here. A weird juxtaposition of Blade Runner-esque neon-smeared synth pulses, hair metal guitars and Adamson’s ever listenable croon, it works much better than the constituent parts might suggest.

The closing Stand In is quite ace too, in an swirling, intergalactic, slightly overblown rock anthem kind of way. There’s just something indisputably reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust about it, particularly in the way that it makes you feel like donning a foil spacesuit and building a rocket out of cardboard boxes.

As befits a man who’s been doing this for 30 odd years, I Will Set You Free is a confident thing, comfortable in its own skin. Not all of it works, but enough of that which is tried comes off to make it an interesting addition to a substantial career.

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