Once you know Graeme Clark’s background there are certain expectations of this album it’s hard to ignore. As bass guitarist and co-founder of 80’s/90’s pop behemoths Wet Wet Wet he was partly responsible for some of the most successful pop hits of the decade, one of which went on to hold number 1 spot in the singles chart for a record bothering number of weeks. The band were purveyors of pure pop at a time when it was eating up the chart, and the question posed by this album is whether he can recapture that form.
The answer, predictably, is both yes and no.
There’s no denying that there’s a lot to enjoy about this record. As you would expect it is chock full of competent, sure footed musicianship and slick production. Although Marti Pellow stole all the limelight in Wet Wet Wet, Clark has a pleasant voice that suits his style of pop, and he uses it to sing equally pleasant songs.
However, there’s not much more you can say about the LP than it is ‘pleasant’. The lyrics on display are mediocre to say the least and it’s startlingly unoriginal, safe song writing with few surprises. The worst offender, arguably, is track eight, ‘When I’m Away From You’ which includes lines such as ‘When I’m away from you it hurts to say / my sense has gone so far away’. The whole release is littered with examples like this, and it smacks of lazy writing.
Of course, in terms of the target audience for this release it’s hardly shocking to say that there’s nothing here we haven’t heard before. For an artist who will be aiming to utilise his existing fanbase, there’s no need to go pulling up trees in search of original ideas at this stage of his career. It’s just a shame that while in recent years artists such as Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell have reinvented themselves for the autumn years of their career, Clark has decided to plough ground already deeply furrowed.
It almost makes it worse that there are moments that do display a self-conscious sense of humour on Clark’s part. The lead single from this album, ‘Kiss of Life’, is by far the strongest track on offer and opens with the line ‘I can’t feel my fingers, I can’t feel my toes’ (anyone reading this who doesn’t understand the humour in that is in the wrong place). More of this would have been welcome, but most of the writing is so po-faced it’s hard not to smile for the wrong reasons.
You could argue, bearing in mind the aforementioned expectations based on Wet Wet Wet’s output, that this album is a success. It’s not written to please musical aficionados, and with Mother’s Day coming up this is a perfect middle of the road pop LP for the less discerning matriarch. If the new venture doesn’t take off for Clark it’s easy to imagine Ronan Keating picking up on one or more of these tracks and making a massive hit out of it. However, never before have the words ‘damning’, ‘faint’ and ‘praise’ been more fitting.
By Steve Boniface
Labelled Independent – The New Music Podcast
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