sat 24/10/2020

CD: Tom Odell - Wrong Crowd | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Tom Odell - Wrong Crowd

CD: Tom Odell - Wrong Crowd

Can the ultra-mainstream balladeer consolidate his success?

This record passes the Rainy Day Greasy Spoon Test with flying colours. It's a vital one for any music that tends to the middle of the road: picture yourself in a cafe, mid-morning, mid-week, perhaps with a hangover, perhaps trying to avoid thinking about a personal problem, certainly not feeling excellent, staring at a mug of tea and the remains of an egg sandwich, with everything outside the windows damp and grey.

This record passes the Rainy Day Greasy Spoon Test with flying colours. It's a vital one for any music that tends to the middle of the road: picture yourself in a cafe, mid-morning, mid-week, perhaps with a hangover, perhaps trying to avoid thinking about a personal problem, certainly not feeling excellent, staring at a mug of tea and the remains of an egg sandwich, with everything outside the windows damp and grey. How do you feel as the music comes onto the radio?

This is not about suspending critical faculties, and it's certainly not about snobbery: it's about understanding the functionality of music. Just as it's hard to fully get to grips with a dance record without being able to picture bodies moving, so you will be missing something when you listen to a record like this if you can't place yourself in a position of some isolation and emotional vulnerability. Through this filter, the qualities, or otherwise, of the Emili Sandés, Keanes, Coldplays and Adeles of this world – the musicians who keep the music industry afloat, let's not forget – are thrown into sharp relief.

Twenty-five-year-old Tom Odell has already won a Brit Award – and, equally prestigiously, soundtracked a John Lewis Christmas advert – so one imagines the pressure was on for his second album. What he's delivered is quite gloriously straightforward. It's got great lashings of Coldplay – although, crucially, without any of the awkward attempts to be cool that stymie their recent work – and Keane, even Take That after they returned as a “man band”. But there's also the Jools Holland-friendly big Sixties soul ballad (“Still Getting Used to Being on my Own”), the “I can do a Bond theme” song (“Jealousy”), just a hint of grunge (“Daddy” and “Here I Am”), and even a hint of groove (if you consider Maroon 5 to be the epitome of funk).

There's nothing original here. Every song is constructed around the basics of love and loss, with extremely well-worn motifs – an ex-lover is “someone I used to know”, the “Constellations” in the sky all look difference after a big emotional shift, and so on. It's five decades of pop balladry telescoped together, all delivered with professionalism, extreme sincerity, and no fancy frills whatsoever. But that's all part of its charm: just as the basic forms of dance music don't have to be reinvented in order to work, so these archetypes of the heartstring-tugging ballad perform their functions as universal salves, not despite their unoriginality and over-generality, but because of it. Grey Wednesday mornings and hangovers don't change with fashion, so why should the music that soundtracks them?

It's all delivered with professionalism, extreme sincerity, and no fancy frills whatsoever

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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