thu 06/08/2020

CD: Harry Styles - Harry Styles | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Harry Styles - Harry Styles

CD: Harry Styles - Harry Styles

The One Direction star tries gamely to live up to the hype machine

"98... 99... 100. Coming, ready or not!"

“Harry's new album is F*CKING INSANE!” tweeted Father John Misty recently, setting the expectation bar very high for a collection that, sources close to the former One Direction member had indicated, would be “deeply personal” (or, at least, as deeply personal as a Grammy-winning songwriting team would allow). Then, with the release of lead single “Sign of the Times” came comparisons to Pink Floyd and David Bowie. Not an overlong Robbie Williams piano ballad sung by someone with decent range, then? No. Pink Floyd. And Bowie.

The comparisons and preposterous hyperbole seem stranger still on the realisation that, while this may not sound like a One Direction album, it certainly feels like one. As with all 1D releases, many of the tunes presented here feel thoroughly road-tested – and mainly because they have been. If there is clear blue water to be found, it's simply in the choice of previous owners.

That's not to say they're not good, however. Opener and standout track “Meet Me in the Hallway” actually warrants the Pink Floyd comparison, in as much as it’s essentially an uptempo reworking of Dark Side’s “Breathe”, with the falsetto refrain from “Sign of the Times” dropped in, presumably to give maximum return on its earworm investment.

“Carolina”, meanwhile, is Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut”, covered by Supergrass, but with the rocket removed from its arse and handed to the stylist. It sounds built-for-purpose, but bearing in mind that the purpose seems to be uncomplicated fun, that’s fine by me.

Most notably, “Sweet Creature” is practically twinned with the Beatles’ “Blackbird” – by which I mean you’re more likely to tell them apart by name than rigorous DNA analysis. However, throughout all this, Styles’ voice holds up perfectly well and lends the songs a pleasing coherence, if falling short of the identity necessary to make the collection a complete success.

The same can’t be said for the mid-album rockers “Only Angel” and “Kiwi”, which see the singer posturing rather than performing. The former features a bluesy, Stones-y riff – neatly studied, and designed to do the same sort of job, but lacking the ferocity of the source material. It’s like sending out a housecat to bring down a gazelle.

Ultimately, it’s a decent enough debut, but Styles isn’t trying to reinvent the form and comparisons to artists who did are as unhelpful to him as they are inaccurate. He’s a perfectly capable pop singer with some solid songs. When on earth did that stop being enough?


Overleaf: Watch the video for "Sign of the Times"

Styles isn’t trying to reinvent the form and comparisons to artists who did are as unhelpful to him as they are inaccurate


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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