Album review

Richard Ashcroft : Human Conditions

Richard Ashcroft : Human ConditionsThe Verve's Urban Hymns must be a stone around the neck of band ex-vocalist Richard Ashcroft. Whatever else he does is inevitably going to be compared to the career highlight of his former outfit. Maybe Bob Mould or Frank Black could offer some tips on how to deal with it . . . or possibly not.
    Whatever, Ashcroft doesn't seem unduly concerned about distancing himself from The Verve's trademark sound. Virtually every track here is a mid-paced acoustic guitar-led outing, more often than not embellished with strings, brass - or occasionally both - to flesh out the sound. A lot like previous album Alone With Everybody then. No surprises.

First single Check The Meaning is one of the better tracks on offer here. It's a good tune, but frustratingly everything you'd expect from a Richard Ashcroft solo track. He's not making any attempt to stretch himself, and seems content to simply cover old ground. When you do that, you're just inviting those unfavourable comparisons . . .
    The glacially paced God In The Numbers has Ashcroft doing a remarkable Tom Petty impression. While the song loses its way half way through - not a Petty trademark - the vocals could have been lifted straight from Echo.
    Seemingly bucking the all-to-prevalent trend, Human Conditions actually gets better the further you go in. Science Of Silence - "We are on a rock, spinning silently" - while not straying too far from the formula, is a highlight, as is Man On A Mission. Running Away and Lord I've Been Trying are also strong, if predictable efforts.
    Closer Nature Is The Law is the most uplifting Human Conditions gets. Anachronistic crooned backing vocals counter Ashcroft's own lackadaisical style, lending this track an individuality sorely lacking in the majority of the rest of this disc. A nice way to end matters, but for the most part Richard Ashcroft seems be going through the motions; and while he's produced a good album, it's an ultimately unfulfilling listen.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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