- by Mark Steele Rating:7 Release Date:2016-05-20 Label:
It has been six years since Richard Ashcroft's United Nations of Sound album in 2010. The mod locks have gone, replaced by a very short, cropped look. He seems ready to go again and give us another helping of the essential Ashcroft experience.
These People has 10 songs which appear as a combination of all he has previously written. Included among this are fresh touches of fixating melodies and a varied harmonic arrangements.
To start us off on this musical journey, 'Out of My Body' begins like a Johnny Cash ballad then jumps into a haunting electro-pop groove with an anti-mind control statement: "Out of my body/ out of my mind/ Free of control/the way I like it". What could already be the musical refrain on 'This is How It Feels' , isn't and is an emotionally earnest love song appearing to not want to resolve.
A classic Ashcroft hallmark and an album highlight here, that keeps the head nodding, on 'They Don't Own Me', has a mesmerising vocal melody, smooth weaving pedal steel guitar, alongside well layered, gliding strings, warm guitars, laid back bass/drums. The positive 'Hold On' has a Coldplay type piano and string layers and aims to induce a hope through tough times. The simple generic 90's pop beat has a steady tempo, and in parts there are some 80's New Order - Blue Monday drum fills.
A possible variation on 'Lucky Man' is title tune 'These People', the vocal melody and harmonies are comfortable, above simple guitar, strings, bass/drums. Another highlight track is 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Hurt' opening with a muted bass line and wah echo guitar licks ' comes across like an electro-pop version of The Stones Roses or The Happy Mondays, it has a consistent drum pattern and swirling string layers.
Atmospheric backdrop and acoustic guitar strumming on 'Picture Of You' is laid back west coast rock, and it is a style which Richard excels in. This could have been written for Stevie Nicks or Gemma Hayes, who incidentally should duet with him any time soon. Love ballad 'Black Lines' holds a 'Drugs dont work' captivation, the familiar lush orchestration, and an elating climatic refrain - magical. A spacious piano and guitar intro to 'Ain't 'The Future So Bright', with some sudden sharp synth motif, over a mid-paced swing-beat drum/ bass groove. It has the usual melancholic atmosphere generated on many tunes Richard has put together in the past, including a partial rap inserted near the end.
The album is wrapped up with 'Songs Of Experience', which is a bright and positive, hope inducing pop song, containing interlinked hooks and a steady pace.
These People is an insight of intimate expression into the life journey of an already established and renowned songwriter. Where there will be some who fully appreciate the familiar work here, on the contrary, there are those of the new musical generation who may desire for Richard to push past the familiar, and look to raise the benchmark further.