Another week, another solo singer-songwriter strumming away on an acoustic guitar. Former Dodgy front man Nigel Clark opens up his heart and offers us 21st Century Man. With the happy-go-lucky charm of 1995’s massive feel good hit Staying Out For The Summer now faded from our ears, has Clark recaptured the magic?
Now, back in 1995 i was only 10 years old, my Nirvana fuelled days of angst were still a few years ahead of me, and i hadn’t even bought my first record. It is a testament to the size and magnitude of Staying Out For The Summer that I remember it playing on the radio back then, during my golden childhood years.
Releasing their first album in 1994, Dodgy went supernova with Homegrown. Slightly pre-dating the Britpop explosion, they reminded the record-buying public what was so great about guitar based pop after all that late ’80s synth nonsense. Founder, frontman and singer/songwriter of the group, Nigel Clark unexpectedly upped and left in 1998 leaving the rest of his band in disarray. Quoted as saying that he’d “got bored with a band set-up”, Clark departed unto pastures new and immersed himself under the radar of the popular music press.
After a fair few years dallying with a number of fledgling bands, Nigel Clark has thrust himself back into the public eye with his solo debut, 21st Century Man. Taking it back to the decade of love, this record has a resounding Beatles feel to it, replete with clunky piano sections and 3-part vocal harmonies. In fact the effect is so strong that Clark loses some of his own personality in the imitation.
The record as a whole lacks the fire and spark present in some of the genre-defining earlier moments with his aforementioned band and, as with many songwriters, he appears to have mellowed with age. Not that this is always necessarily a bad thing, but during some of the weaker moments of this album Clark risks falling into the twilight zone that is background music.
That isn’t to say that the album isn’t without its charms. Opener Don’t Give Up is a fine starting place for the record. With murky melodies churning and swirling in the background, the guitar work is exemplary and Clark’s vocals are rather disarming, being filled with a sense of urgency mingled with apathy. Forthcoming single and title track 21st Century Man is another stand-out moment. A modern day parable about life and living with the 21st century condition delivered with equal portions of regret and affirmation.
Unfortunately the weak outweighs the strong with too many fillers and nondescript tracks clogging up the listing. There are only so many times you can wheel out the same drum/piano rhythm before the music begins to wash over you without leaving a lasting impression.
This album, as you may have guessed by now, doesn’t score high in the originality stakes and could be described as a perfectly executed copy. If you were a die-hard Dodgy fan then you will probably find a modicum of joy here. That doesn’t mean new listeners should stay away, however don’t hold your breath and wait for something new, because you won’t find it here.