Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Finding Ways To Stay Solo

Remember when solo albums spelled disaster for everyone involved, especially the listeners? Ever since Sting broke off from the Police to record music that sucks, members going solo has typically meant what ought to be the end of a career. As always, there are exceptions: Morrissey's solo work at least comes close to his time with The Smiths. But for every Morrissey, there is an Ian Brown, Richard Ashcroft, or Billy Corgan.

Thom Yorke's famously-hyped summer release is pretty swell, and his band is continuing to make brilliant music on tour. A new solo album that fell off my radar, however, until its recent UK release, was that of Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield.

When the project was first announced, I was not expecting greatness. Bassist Nicky Wire has covered lyrics for the Manics since former member Richey Edward's disappearance in 1995. Bradfield's only lyrical contribution to the band was Know Your Enemy's palatable "Ocean Spray," which was not particularly memorable by any means.

Being in the music biz for twenty years seems to have reinvigorated Bradfield's creative energies, because the music and lyrics found on his album The Great Western are truly excellent. The sound is most reminiscent of Everything Must Go combined with the presence of piano found in Lifeblood. While not to far off from the Manics' work, the album has enough of its own personality to stand alone. While there are still some somber tunes, the lyrics here are more uplifting and more honest than Wire's. Appropriately enough, the first track, "That's No Way To Tell A Lie," kicks off the album with catchy guitar and hand claps. Every track here is a well-crafted 3-to-4 minute pop song. Not a return to the Manics' world-changing punk rock of yesteryear (but neither is The Eraser a return to the "guitar-based brilliance" of The Bends).
One of the most listenable solo efforts I have ever heard.

As always, here's a YouTube performance on the late, great Top of the Pops.

And hey, let's not forget about Fergie's upcoming solo album. I can only imagine the magic that can occur when the least talented member of my least favorite group in recent memory gets on her own.


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