Most people would love to have one great band on their resume. And then there’s Barry Adamson. The former member of both Magazine and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, he left both these groups to pursue a rather successful solo career where he would release albums and score films. In 2012 he proves that you can’t tie this old dog down, because he is back with solo offering number ten, I Will Set You Free.
The title is a bold one and if anything Adamson is actually letting himself have all the freedom, once again toying with as many genres as is humanly possible. It’s like he’s hoarding them in case there’s a world shortage or you could just imagine him rolling the dice or pulling out little sheets of paper from a hat in order to decide what style lady-luck would throw his way on that particular day, a sort of choose your own adventure-approach to record creating. All we know is that the main constant across these ten tracks is a clever mind, sound musical ability, imagination aplenty and above all, a wicked sense of humour.
“Set Your Mind Right” begins with some lusty, garage rock propelled by some XXX-rated, dirty guitar riffs, a Hammond organ and something that is head-noddingly cool. Early on Adamson’s smooth croon establishes himself as an artist who sounds a lot like Edwyn Collins (a musician who in turn copped comparisons to Iggy Pop, among others). This is an appropriate assessment because Adamson could certainly pull off “Girl Like You” with great aplomb, singing to her face, kissing her on her cheek and then sending her packing.
The listener then gets some full-blown trumpet fanfare in the finger-snappingly groovy, “Black Holes In My Brain”. This is as far away as possible from the following, “Turnaround” a space-meets-sun, Neil Diamond-inspired slice of retro pop. It doesn’t last long though, because pretty soon he’s back to sweating desperation, skuzzy guitars and creating one low buzz on “Destination”.
We’re lobbed another curveball on “Trigger City Blues,” which begins all cinematic like Split Enz with an additional emphasis on film noir before we veer off into space past noises like: phone calls, broken glass and a silent movie soundtrack mixed with an intergalactic space dance. There is plenty of rhythm and ambience, making things sound like something that wouldn’t be out of place on a Brian Eno record.
“Looking To Love Somebody” then takes us back to a funky feeling. This could be because it nods at the keyboard work of Jon Lord from Deep Purple plus Jimi Hendrix’s wa-wa guitar sound. The record then closes with the yearning piano ballad, “If You Love Her” before Adamson glams it up one final time as if like the lovechild of David Bowie and Roxy Music on “Stand In”.
“I Will Set You Free” sees this cool cat looking back at some dramatic influences as he blends together styles, tones, tempo and substance like some particularly adventurous witchdoctor or masterchef (depending on your point of view). It may sound completely effortless but it is some of the most interesting, accessible and experimental music to date (an achievement as most albums are hard-pressed to boast even one of these things).
Like an epic patchwork quilt made of pieces that match in neither colour, shape or texture, it’s exciting to know that this record is comfortable enough in its own shoes to be idiosyncratic and jackknife around with different ideas. It means there will always be a little something to pique your interest and it ultimately feels like it is cut from the same cloth, albeit one dip-dyed, torn and processed at different moments.
Originally published on 11 April 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/32177/Barry-Adamson–I-Will-Set-You-Free
Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/