mon 18/10/2021

Album: Tom Odell - Monsters | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Tom Odell - Monsters

Album: Tom Odell - Monsters

Growing singer-songwriter seeks depression's roots

It can be hard to separate this century’s male British troubadours, these children of Thom Yorke with their frail quavers, uniformly insisting on sensitivity, but too often sounding like entitled bleats.

Maybe, as James Blake has defensively indicated, they simply reveal an epidemic of depression. In a desperate decade, mild yearning, not rage, anyway remains this genre’s default. Coldplay even removed the blood from the tracks of their anodyne breakup album, like spilt wine on the carpet.

Dig beneath the morass of maudlin vocals, though, and individual artistry persists. Tom Odell’s pop songcraft and gospel-like striving for something better was present in his early hit “Another Love”, and a certain personal and sexual bluntness has slipped the polite shackles since. Fourth album Monsters is the result of miserably but usefully hitting a wall, forcing him to face up to anxiety attacks and alcohol, and retreat to his Sussex parents’ embrace.

Trying to crack open his musical limits, like James Blake’s career in reverse, he has also widened his lyrical horizons, sourcing his mental illness in a cruelly out of whack world. “I hold my hand over the flame, to see if I can feel some pain,” he begins in “Numb”, over campfire crackles of static. “Fffffuck them, it’s all about me,” he soon hisses on the very Radiohead-like “Money”, while “Streets of Heaven” imagines child victims of another American mass shooting pacing the Afterlife, mourning the company to come.

Odell’s love of Springsteen lifts piano ballad “Lose You Again” to histrionic heights, and his evolution falters and overreaches, but the rewards are great. The highlights both last just 90 seconds, like Sixties pop. “Noise” blurs career doubts and internet paranoia into an escalating cry of anguish, a cultural panic attack. “Country Star” then casts a contrastingly cool eye on a one-night stand with an American country star in an English hotel bar, making out on a barroom windowsill “between the dust and the daffodils”. Later, paparazzi blur past her limo, “like rain on tinted glass”. When the closing, straightforwardly pretty ballad “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” comes, he’s earned it.

He has widened his lyrical horizons, sourcing his mental illness in a cruelly out of whack world

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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