Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Richard Ashcroft's Alone With Everybody

To get this out of the way: I never really listened to the Verve. I liked "Bittersweet Symphony," maybe listened to that album one afternoon while stuck at my sister's. That's the extent of my experience with the Verve, and thus I'm not going to give any insightful comparisons between Richard Ashcroft's solo output and that.

I can't really remember if I bought Alone With Everybody first or the first Unkle album, which Ashcroft appears on (and does a tremendous job on "Lonely Soul"), but the general theme of what I associate with the man runs constant: strings. The opening strings on "A Song For the Lovers" is a tremendous rush, and was enough to entice me into the rest of the album.

Luckily, said strings feature prominently throughout the rest of the album, and used to great effect (what is it with Brits and their love of anthems?). Apart from aforementioned single, Ashcroft delivers a great affectionate haze throughout the first 1/3 of Alone With Everybody, with it only succumbing to twangy slide guitar in the last 1/3 (thus making that portion a lot less enjoyable). The first 1/3 features solid, yet self-conscious, love songs, and though one could easily see Ashcroft giving into melodrama, it's well-balanced here, and more warming than cliched (the segue from "A Song for Lovers" into "I Get My Beat" is quite effective). The rest of the album's not bad, but doesn't quite live up to the peak that the album sets for itself, particularly on "New York."

For the most part, then, Alone With Everybody's perhaps a little too caustic, touches on perhaps a little bit of self-importance, and maybe a little inconsistent, but enjoyable nonetheless. I've no idea how it stands up next to the Verve, but the first two songs are enough to stand on their own.

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