Having taken a break from the Chet Faker alias near the end of the 2010s, Nick Murphy is back at it with a follow-up to 2014’s Built On Glass. The vibe here is looser, the grooves and riffs ambling along at their own pace and Murphy’s vocal performances carrying on the Jamie Lidell lineage of soulful white-boy vamping. But does this more rootsy approach pay off?
Certainly the instrumentation gets off to a great start, as Oh Me Oh My sports laidback drums and a one-note ostinato reminiscent of DJ Shadow’s Fixed Income accompanying a simple but effective hook.
Meanwhile It’s Not You is a fine vocal showcase, with Murphy cooing a plaintive falsetto over warm bass guitar harmonies. The problems come when the songcraft becomes a bit too eccentric for its own good, resulting in self-indulgence and unforced errors that ruin perfectly good song ideas.
Could no one have advised Murphy not to slur and gurn his way through the hook of Whatever Tomorrow for a whole minute after the beat cuts out? Could no one have recommended he drop the horns that squall over So Long So Lonely in a very unappealing fashion? And what of the overly goofy synth work on Peace Of Mind, or the nails-on-chalkboard harmonising for the final hook of I Must Be Stupid? None of these tracks were bad ideas from the start, they all had potential to be better than this.
Tracks like Feel Good and Get High (featuring a cameo from a possibly real delivery driver) stick to simple notions of blues and funk, and do it very well. It might be damning with faint praise, but Hotel Surrender would suggest that Murphy is at his best in shallow artistic waters, and ventures further out at his peril.