Just in time for summer, Lostboy! (aka Jim Kerr) releases his full-length debut, an album of gooey-centred pop-rock, more often than not smothered in a summer's day haze.
'Shadowland,' 'She Fell in Love with Silence' and 'Return of the King' all play out with a lazy half-smile and a blissed-out vagueness. The combination of winding vocals, jangly drumbeats and slippery slide-guitar that coil through the melt-in-the-mouth blur of 'Shadowland,' is irresistible.
'She Fell in Love with Silence' takes the blissful fug of 'Shadowland,' and spices things up with a hint of 90's-style dance-pop. Meanwhile, 'Return of the King' is the most laidback of the trio, with a stylish swing to its carefully-measured step. However, the vocals and lyrics let the side down. The lyrics are deliberately obtuse, but lack that twisted, poetic flair that can make nonsense-lyrics sound deep and meaningful, and Kerr insists on testing out a rock n roll holler, which does absolutely nothing for him. 'Return of the King' gets the foundations right, but the vocals and the lyrics fail to set this song alight.
The weak vocals of 'Return of the King' are a one-off, as Kerr's voice is without a doubt this album's biggest asset. He also has a neat trick of mirroring a song's central synth and guitar rhythms. The double-whammy of Kerr's vocal shimmying and perfectly-matched synths on the chorus of 'Red Letter Day,' is mesmerising synth-pop at its finest. When it comes to his cover of Fingerprintz's 'Bulletproof Heart,' it's the guitars that mimic Kerr's vocal rhythms. When those guitars aren't sliding and shaking with fluid ease, Kerr's voice is coiling around itself. A song with a sinuous, gravitational pull.
'Nail Through My Heart,' 'The Wait Parts 1 and 2' and 'Remember Asia' are the album's most experimental songs. 'Remember Asia,' is the most successful of the trio. Although it rumbles across epic musical terrain, each segment of the 'Remember Asia' saga is imbued with its own unique hook. The first verse bubbles with synths; the second verse is layered with a buzzy, electro stutter; the chorus is slippery with slide-guitar; and the bridge section has a pumping, piston-like beat. It's long-winded, but obvious thought has gone into making each chapter enjoyable. The time will fly by.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for 'Nail Through My Heart' which, after a spine-tingling introduction of cold, urban sound effects that gradually evolves into a brittle electro landscape, goes on for far, far too long. The endless loop of harsh, almost mechanical-sounding electro, makes the closing few minutes a thankless chore. 'The Wait Parts 1 and 2' is the midway point between 'Nail Through My Heart' and 'Remember Asia.' Beginning as airy alt-pop, it drifts into increasingly dark, bass-centric territory, before unexpectedly reverting to glimmering alt-pop that sails smoothly past the finish line. It doesn't have the hooks of 'Remember Asia,' but its sense of movement, will hold your interest nonetheless.
The crunching 'Soloman' Solohead' is the most rock-orientated track on the album, as some boomy bass and sleazy, distorted vocals are added to the mix. Like 'She Fell in Love with Silence,' this song has a stylish swing in its step, but 'Soloman Solohead' gets into a rut and stays there, rumbling contentedly along. You'll be waiting for a chorus, or a bridge, but the payoff never comes and you'll be left feeling slightly cheated.
There's only one instance where Kerr completely misses the mark, and that's with 'Lostboy,' where he overcomplicates things by taking a solid, intriguing ping-pong beat, and then muddying the waters with randomly whimpering guitars and messy drumbeats. One of those songs that makes a lot of vague noise, without really making an impression.
Jim Kerr picked the best of the bunch when he released the fantastic 'Shadowland' / 'Refugee' single and, although there's very little on this album to rival the pop-rock brilliance of these two songs, this album consistently pitches at a few notches below 'Shadowland' and 'Refugee.' 'Remember Asia' is a case study in how to hold the listener's attention throughout an epic pop-rock trek, and Kerr has discovered a formula for putting the final, wickedly sharp edge on his vocals, in the form of mirroring synths and guitars. This album isn't trying to make any big statements or shake up the scene, but for thoroughly enjoyable, straightforward pop-rock with the occasional smattering of synths, you couldn't do much better than this.