Taking time out from tackling the mean streets of West London, Ian Davis, a highly decorated copper (he’s got three commendations for bravery, dontcha know?), has found time to write and record an album. Look Inside might get played on Radio 2, and probably slots into the “easy-listening” racks of your local record store: glossy production; earnest lyrics; occasional brass and strings, but mostly guitar and piano. Not exactly groundbreaking or particularly remarkable, but not too much to criticise either – right?
Well no, actually. From the beginning, the album lacks individuality. Opening track No More is the reincarnation of Lighthouse Family‘s Ocean Drive (yes, I know… horrible). Also, the frankly delightful Please Forgive Me by David Gray, returns bastardised, and in disguise as Blue. Such unoriginality is an immediate turn-off.
The second thing to note is the unconscionably wet, over-indulgent lyrics: “Run away, fly with me…just jump, you will see all the wonders meant to be” (on Meant) and, even worse, “You are a mystery to me and I’ll always love you forever…Baby I love the way you smile at me” (on Mystery). The album is liberally sprinkled with “love”, “belief”, “heart” “precious”, “feeling” and the like. Sensitive lyrics, originally phrased, I can handle, such overly sentimental codswallop I cannot.
Furthermore, the songs are not that varied. They are almost exclusively addressed to “you” and the subject matter is almost exclusively love. “Love” or “loving” or “lover” appear in the lyrics well over 20 times and not surprisingly, such repetition is tiresome and dull.
It would be unfair to completely rubbish Look Inside though, despite its problems. The quality of the musicianship is unquestionable. Ten Miles High has a wonderful intro, eerie synth is followed by a Lenny Kravitz worthy riff, the thumping bass guitar continues into the verse, and this becomes the album highlight. Meant is full of soaring harmonies that would be truly uplifting if paired with some less retch-inducing lyrics and Cloudy is really quite gorgeous; a very sunny melody, despite its title! Davis can sing as well, and his relaxed and earthy vocals stand up well against comparable singer-songwriters.
Besides the failings of the album, it is the timing of this release that is likely to deny Davis access to the popular mainstream. When the artists he most closely resembles (David Gray, The Lightning Seeds, Lighthouse Family) broke into the charts, the British music scene was stagnant. At the moment though, we have some really great new bands coming through and some pretty credible pop acts knocking around too. For the moment, your money is better spent elsewhere.
All in all, you could pop this on in the background and call it easy listening, but don’t pay too close attention, or the lyrics will make it gut-wrenchingly hard work to get through the whole album. Look Inside shouldn’t tempt you, and won’t add much to your CD collection. The musicianship is accomplished, but if Ian Davis wants to make the switch from police station to recording studio more permanent, he’ll have to make his lyrics more diverse, and far less soppy.