Album Reviews

Loner – Western Sci-Fi

(Just) UK release date: 20 April 2009

Who better to accurately describe the music of Geoff Smith, the moody man behind the moniker Loner, than the artist himself?� Apparently, he has a penchant for performing in pubs, in which he appreciates “the sense of life moving on around (him) – and (he’s) in the middle standing still, watching and staying in one place.”� That sentiment just about sums it up for his latest release Western Sci-Fi, a stagnant and disengaged afterthought of an album.

In actuality, Loner is a walking (or, more appropriately, a sitting and brooding) contradiction.� Given that he is rather gregarious (as shown by his contribution of synth-laden, piano pop artistry to collaborative efforts with Sinead O’Connor, Dot Allison and Tim Simenon of Bomb The Bass), and currently performs alongside DJs and musicians, his stage name is something of a misnomer.� Also, whilst on the topic of errata, it’s appropriate to observe that the bio posted on his label’s web page misguidedly contends that his music “transports and transcends the every day.”

Western Sci-Fi indicates otherwise.� Like a wispy morning fog, the album’s attempts at envelopment are ultimately fleeting, as time will eventually see it evaporated and forgotten.

To start, and to be fair, it should be noted that the record does possess glimpses of an artist who is by no means untalented.� While never exhibiting staggering virtuosity, there is a tenderness in his breathy voice (especially identifiable in Already Numb, which calls to mind the gentler side of Ben Folds) and straightforward instrumentation that occasionally proves endearing.

However, and unfortunately, Western Sci-Fi is ultimately debilitated by its meandering, anemic banality.� Several rehashed, 1980s pop moves are exhumed and exhausted, and ring increasingly hollow as the album limps along.� Attempts at emulating the sounds of New Order, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and even Cyndi Lauper (note the chorus of the upbeat tune Without You’s similarity to Time After Time) fall flat, with each track ultimately proving unworthy of serving as any of those artists’ b-side cast-offs.

Coupled with shoddy, boring melodies are doubled voices (separated by octaves) and a potpourri of uninteresting effects, all of which would serve well as background noise for a legwarmer-clad department store shopper 25 years ago.

Awkward rhyme schemes and gloomy, repeated lyrics also hamstring Loner’s sophomore effort.� Good luck attempting to locate the vowel-chimes in “I used to know your shadows, I used to know your pain, I used to know your heartbeat at any given time,” the couplets of the refrain in the stalker-ific lamentation The Fire You Had.

Inevitably, as the album wears on, ideas converge and repeat, and eventually prove untenable.� Even the aforementioned Already Numb cannot sustain itself for nearly four minutes, as Loner, seemingly plumb out of anything interesting to say, simply hums the outro of the track.

In spite of all this, Loner is unapologetic, and repeatedly says so in I’m Not Sorry.� He also slyly notes in the track that he pays “[his] dues before [his] rent.”� It’s good to hear that he has those priorities in check, although more uninspired invention like this may make him unable to afford either of them in the future.

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Loner – Western Sci-Fi