tue 21/05/2024

Album: Gary Kemp - Insolo | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Gary Kemp - Insolo

Album: Gary Kemp - Insolo

Unlistenably middle-of-the-road post-prog bland-fest from Spandau Ballet songwriter

Kemp about to consumed by Scarlett Johnasson

Spandau Ballet started well, their slick, slightly angular pop-funk adding a certain something to early Eighties new romantic frippery. Later, especially with the success of global schmaltz-smash “True”, they lost what teeth they had, drifting into cod-soul blandness.

Kemp’s career since has focused as much on acting as music, but his recent round of gigs playing Syd Barrett to drummer Nick Mason’s early Pink Floyd tribute band, Saucerful of Secrets, was both unexpected and well-received. It was this that made me intrigued to hear Insolo. I wish it hadn’t. It’s one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard, showcasing Kemp as the most awful M.O.R indulgent.

There’s a place where post-Eighties prog rock skitters into West Coast FM radio smoothness, yacht rock, and tepid jazziness. Insolo inhabits this territory and then some, filled with a cast of session men connected with that world. Think Asia fronted by Bryan Adams, produced by Kenny G. Kemp is revealed as a slick light entertainer with pretensions to art, revelling in clinical over-production.

It’s Kemp’s second solo album - his first was 26 years ago - and thematically it casts an eye backwards, mixing nostalgia with clunkily expounded existential narratives. Try this from “I Remember You”: “You cry all night because the day is so long/Though your tears have never left you strong”. Or how about this, from the same song: “You felt the tightness in your skin/Your eye was sharper than a pin/And every battle you would win.” These is much more in a similar vein.

But lyrical awkwardness is easy to forgive if the music charms or persuades. Instead, Insolo’s sound is relentlessly tame, a watery fuss of complacency, peppered with horrible guitar and sax solos that recall bands such as Chicago and REO Speedwagon at their worst, while uplift is attempted by pleading multitracked choruses. It’s polite music with pretensions. If it were a person, it would be an estate agent with a closely shaved beard and a horrible expensive suit, whose main interest is money, but who spends his evenings sipping G&Ts and feeling he’s deep, literate and sorrowful. But enough. Just avoid.

Below: Watch the video for "Too Much" by Gary Kemp


Not a review. More a vindictive takedown. I would have expected better from The Arts Desk.

"It’s one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard" Clearly, you've not heard many albums.

Thank you! I'm not exactly sure what everybody was raving about. The writing is pretentious, the production is low level and the background musicians seem disjointed. He doesn't have even a passable voice and relys on name dropping to sell records. Hard pass!

This review is spot on….I heard one song on the radio and had to listen to the album because it was so bad…I thought it was a David Brent spoof. Many an up and coming artist would love to have the opportunity he has wasted.

I’m enjoying the album immensely. It’s beautifully written, played, arranged, and produced – just like the three songs we had already heard (Ahead of The Game, Too Much, Waiting for the Band). The whole album is very tasteful, eclectic, and accomplished, and I recommend listening to it through headphones to fully appreciate the little details, the range of instruments and sounds. For Pink Floyd fans, Gary Kemp even plays some David Gilmour-esque guitar on 2-3 tracks. For those who need more persuasion, also listen to these songs (preferably from start to finish) on Spotify or YouTube: title track, The Fastest Man in the World, I Am the Past, Our Light, The Haunted.

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