As all but the most blinkered of Verve fans must be realising by now, Richard Ashcroft's much-anticipated solo career has turned out to be one massive disappointment. His second album without his old band encapsulates the problem perfectly: it's epic, heartfelt, passionate - and, in the final analysis, quite unbelievably boring. Ashcroft likes to claim that his music is wrestling with great universal issues, but on the evidence of these ten songs he's got precious little to say: almost every one is weighed down with self-obsessed rock star cliches and pseudo-profound ramblings. With few tracks lasting under six minutes, this is pretty heavy going - and the painfully overwrought arrangements, dominated by bombastic guitars and saccharine strings, don't help much either. The one saving grace is 'Nature Is The Law', a closing gospel singalong that features the wayward Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson on backing vocals. Sadly, it's a case of much too little and much too late - making it hard to avoid the conclusion that while Ashcroft's messiah complex is as robust as ever, he's increasingly beginning to look like the emperor who's wearing no clothes.
Review by | 09:00 | Wednesday 30th October 2002 | Album Review