RPA & The United Nations Of Sound - The United Nations of Sound - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

RPA & The United Nations Of Sound - The United Nations of Sound

by Lawrence Poole Rating:6.5 Release Date:2010-07-19

If there's one thing you can't accuse Richard Ashcroft of it's being afraid of a challenge. He is, however, a little slow to learn from his past mistakes. When his alma mater The Verve split for an inevitable third time after the lukewarm reception which greeted fourth album Fourth and a clutch of rapturously received and incendiary live shows - headlining slots at V and Glastonbury were particularly momentous - the Wigan shaman was faced with the slightly depressing prospect of falling back on a patchy solo career (again!).

This time though, the only British frontman who shares that same pseudo-religious cult following as original inspiration Ian Brown finally realised in order to continue to be challenged in the music industry he needs to surround himself with people are capable of challenging him and, more importantly, saying no when his ego teeters on the brink. So he decamped to New York with a laptop full of half-finished ideas and set about putting together a new proposition.

What he found is as refreshing as it surprising. RPA (Richard Paul Ashcroft) was slowly beefed up by the United Nation of Sound, comprising respected hip-hop producers, musicians and Motown royalty (Reggie Dozier). The result is a self-titled album, which though flatters to deceive in places, has enough moments of soulful promise to keep one of the nation's most enduring characters in the spotlight for a little longer.

Produced by Jay-Z collaborator No I.D., the record gets off to a flyer too. 'Are You Ready?' positively bristles with trademark Ashcroft vim and vigour and if the accompanying Rocky-esque 'back in training' video doesn't spell out the Wiganer's desire to make an impact then second track - surfing on a rippling riff - 'Born Again' surely does. Bouncing out of the stereo, it's super radio-friendly and sure to turn a new audience on.

Sadly, after this when things turn a little lacklustre. 'America', 'This Thing Called Life' and 'Beatitudes' may all be draped in strings and hip-hop beats, but the melodies are just not strong enough to carry off the bombast and could quite easily have been swept up off the studio floor from the more disappointing moments of his solo career. Thankfully, a couple of lovely moments elsewhere do rescue things somewhat. 'She Brings Me The Music' is the type of lovelorn ballad that would make even the hardest of rock star wives melt, while 'Life Can Be So Beautiful's epic feel saves it from falling in to a pit of self-righteous schmaltz, which has dogged his career in the past.

After catching the new line-up at Shepherd's Bush Empire recently with the formidable DW Wright holding down some super-tight basslines, it was great to see just how impressed they were not just with Ashcroft as live performer but with the connection he still maintains with his audience. With this album, he's managed to pen a clutch of numbers, to boost what is already a fearsome back-catalogue - you just wonder whether this indie travelling minstrel will ever find what he's actually looking for.

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