Barry Adamson – I will set you Free: Retro Rock with a serve of Irony
Barry Adamson is a name anyone familiar with edge or Indie music will recognise instantly. He’s cruized with Magazine and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – so there is a place a veteran can get to that is all about something we know melded in with a ‘where he’s at’ feel rather than anything particularly new. This is probably the most commercial of all his albums to date – but even I can forgive that. I mean he has such a great voice; and that sleaze factor is still there; and its all ironic anyway, right?
I will set you free (a lofty ambition but one perhaps beyond the powers of a single LP) is a charming and fun series of über cool ditties from a very experienced, and in my case, much-loved, musician. It’s Adamson all over, so don’t expect anything revolutionary – just say thanks for the groove. This album plays around with many of the different styles Adamson is more than familiar with. I did find myself jumpin’ a lot. It’s definnitely a feel good (if not necessarily free) barrel of cool pleasure. He’s a cheeky dude (Can I say something that quaint about an ex Bad Seed?) and that spice is all over these ten pleasure-filled tracks. One of my favourite things about Barry Adamson albums is the clever mind behind them.
We leap straight into it with Get your Mind Right and Black Holes in my Brain. The pump starts up right away with some Hammond organ and a bunch of dirty guitar riffs with all that unrequited promise Adamson gives a wholesome gal. It has a pop feel but you soon work out that its a prep piece for the fun of the rest of the album. Black Holes in my Brain is when he moves into one of my favourite aspects of is wide stylistic variety – but then everyone knows I’m a loungy-slut-type, always keen on a cruizy piano – and hey… My mum used to listen to Neil Diamond, so you’ll have to forgive me!
We move into a shape shift on Turnaround and suddenly I’m at the Eurovision song contest. We have some cliché here that reminded me of – dare I say it – Cliff Richard? I could even see him, tight pants and canned girly screams in the background. This is a nice little curve-ball of a song that meanders through a certain pop style that panders to a sweeter time of innocent love song lyric that was always total bullshit. Adamson’s voice crooning “It’ll be ok / We’ll find a way” is enough to send a dark dagger through any unrealised hopes of eternal love.
He plummets us into a funkier The power of suggestion that, while still retro and ironic has shifted us more into the Southern hemisphere and way from the Euro-trash. Again, I love the tunes that play with a cruizy theme and again here we have a sultry piano and smooth cocaine references. This is a nice rhythm led-piece that ‘wakes-me-up” all over. Destination meanders along the same paths.
The album moves into interesting territory when it hits Trigger City Blues. There is a nasty Bowie sound going on here with Adamson’s voice, and that delicious dark that (surely) offers him up plenty of the ladies. At least this is where it really does it for me. There’s that Bowie-voice start that moves into this odd fall out of sound effects and noise with a solid organ holding up the background. This track has a theatrics, hitting the funk at around 4 minutes, a solitary unanswered phone ringing in the background. This track is a mishmash of unanswerable sounds, a patchwork of Adamson himself in a way. It’s the stand out for me. A real pleasure to listen to.
The funk keeps on with Looking to Love Somebody – looking to love somebody right now! Cut you down to size with my eyes. Again that lush Hammond organ combined with the sexual desperation has a rather yummy excitable feel that gives one the impression we might be dealing with a master of the one-night-stand. take that one any way you want. Theres no post modern angst here. This is raw being and just the tale-telling of a very seasoned and clever artist. Adamson will slice through the poppy If You Love Her, pulling it off without a hint of foolish. Maybe a little Roxy Music in there to keep the irony strong.
I will Set you Free is a play on the intellectual examination of the pop hopes, fears and explorations of the last few decades. Despite its variety, its glued together by Adamson’s smooth fine voice, and the man’s deep love of music and his clever clever mind. This is a subtle album – don’t get caught in thinking its banality isn’t intentional. He’s playing with you, this guy. And frankly, he can do it for as long as wants.