Some solo performers focus on the singing, leaving others to put the backing tracks together. Others play guitar or keyboards, or both. A few are true multi-instrumentalists, like Beck, for instance. But there’s a select group that do everything — say, the late Prince. Now, Barry Adamson falls into that bracket. He’s written, arranged, performed and produced the ‘Love Sick Dick’ EP. He even did the sleeve design and is releasing the EP on his own record label.
So, Adamson is fully responsible for all of the jazzy blues piano, choruses verging on gospel, vigorous bass, smashing cymbals, and vocals that move from a cool drawl to an anguished rant and howl on ‘I Got Clothes’. He can claim credit, or take the blame, for the chaotic-sounding production of the song’s mid-point breakdown (“watch me break it down again, take this down again…”).
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‘Sweet Misery’ is more poppy and melodious — a slice of “futuristic blues” that shows off Adamson’s fine baritone singing voice, if also a questionable penchant for a “classic” guitar solo. ‘People Like Us’ has a real Madchester feel to the piano riff, percussion and guitars. The “we are superstar” refrain wouldn’t be out of place at a late ’80s/early ’90s Hacienda revival club night. But Adamson’s brilliant electric organ break sets the song apart from mere nostalgia or pastiche.
Breathy singing makes for a curious start to ‘On Golden Square’. His deep baritone speaking voice, complete with Manchester intonation, comes in later on, to say “listen to your mom”, as the song twists several times into a soulful refrain of “it’s alright” amid swirling keyboards that somehow drag ’50s sonic references into a 21st century world of synthesizers and paranoia.
The vampire schtick of ‘They Walk Among Us’ — a sort of title track, dropping the EP’s name into the lyrics — plays with electro synth, drum machine and a vocal as deep as a film trailer voiceover. That’s not coincidental, because Adamson is a lover of films and maker of movie soundtracks, having worked with David Lynch (‘Lost Highway’) and Dany Boyle (‘The Beach’). A bit of soul (“feels like the real thing, baby”) dropped into the sequencer mix rounds off the song with a lyrical nod to Marvin Gaye and a touch of Donna Summer disco in the beat.
The disco flavour continues on the confessional ‘One Hot Mess’ — almost a party banger — driven by Adamson’s trademark heavy, fat bass. Keyboards and guitars roar in a wall of sound until the track eases out like a movie shot fading to white.
‘Love Sick Dick’ provides a fascinating glimpse of where self-confessed outsider Adamson is heading, as he builds on 40 years in music — from Magazine and Visage through Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds and film scores (imagined and real) — to truly go his own, solitary, love-lorn way.
‘Love Sick Dick’ is released on 14th April via Central Control International