On Human Conditions, Richard Ashcroft’s new solo album, there is definitely some hints of his old band the Verve, but at the same time it sounds distinctly unique. Elements remain of the Verve’s past glory, but Ashcroft employs some different instruments, and lets his voice meander from a dry, stretched voice, to a soft whisper.
All in all, Human Conditions is a very laid-back album. Most of the tracks amble and wander through atmospheric tones; his subject matter does the same, touching on society, love, and self discovery. At some points the string picking on the guitar sounds almost country, and then can fade into waves of soft and loud wailing.
The second track “Buy it in Bottles” starts off very soft, and picks up into a steady, soft song, backed by strings and well-timed harmonies. It’s very straightforward, a solid pop song highlighted by heavy rock riffs, and then becomes a gentle, almost totally stripped back to guitar and backing strings alone.
Then immediately, the next track “Bright Lights” picks up the tempo and employs Indian instruments, such as the tabla, along with the same riff-driven guitar. Ashcroft never waivers in his vocal tone; his voice has a consistent, parched quality that is quite distinct. It just seems to fit along with the rest of the accompaniment – each instrument plays of the other, highlighting the vocals even more.
With “Paradise,” the tempo changes again, and adds some electronic drum beats towards the beginning. The subject seems to dance back and forth from a simple relationship, the joy of two people running away together, to possibly a slight Biblical reference. Towards the end, the addition of the harp and synth brings about a definite atmospheric feeling; one can just imagine walking around in a paradise of color and sound.
But “Science of Silence” drags a bit. The sixth track starts out with a synth, sounding strangely like “Lean on Me,” bringing back memories of the Verve’s troubles with covering songs. That similarity takes away from the rest of the song, and the drowning strings and synth to not create a ear-friendly melody.
Richard Ashcroft’s solo effort is however very good. Standout tracks are “Lord I’ve Been Trying,” “God In Numbers,” and “Buy it In Bottles.” He definitely has a voice that can be remembered, and picked out distinctly. And his songwriting isn’t bad either.
Tom Fraher is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.