I was able to preview the new RPA & United Nations of Sound album a week before its (supposed) United States release. Here is my review, as a big fan of Richard Ashcroft. I reviewed the album in my moleskine tonight on the metro ride home. I took this picture on my blackberry and thought it would be an appropriate image for the review. Let me know if you have any questions.
1. Are you Ready?
The main piece of the album which wasn’t really for sale early, but you could listen to it on Ashcroft’s page. This song has old-school Verve tendencies, great orchestral tones, and is probably the centerpiece of the album. Unlike previous RPA releases (I’m thinking about Forth), there are other good songs than this one. Forth only had one good song — Love is Noise, and that’s generous to call it “good.” This song is a must have.
2. Born Again
Kind of a new vibe for RPA, and an average song. A little too new-age for me, and it had too many religious references, not consistent of the Ashcroft doom and gloom.
One might think that the title would make the song appealing. You’d be wrong to think that. This song is repetitive, and part of a new thing RPA is pulling that has some sort of an R&B vibe. If you are looking to buy songs on iTunes, don’t buy this one. Columbus Circle (Third Eye) which RPA & UNOS released, is not on this album. They should have kept America off of it and put in “Third Eye.”
4. This Thing Called Life
I liked part of the orchestral tones of the song, but it was tied into some weird soft-rock background that should be on some MTV show or on Lifetime. Not a horrible song overall, but not one of the album’s best.
Absolutely the worst song of the album. It’s repetitive and unoriginal. Maybe the woman who mispronounces beatitudes as “beetitudes” is doing it to be funny, but the song outright sucks.
6. Good Lovin’
This song has a background that ties closely to some soul songs, and the orchestral parts are nice. Crisp singing, but not RPA’s best work.
7. How Deep is Your Man?
This is one of the weirdest titles on the album., hands down. It sounds like the background was ripped off of Snoop’s “my medicine” and is way too repetitive to tolerate. Not a good song.
8. She Brings Me the Music
This song is pretty stellar for the album. It starts with a good piano intro, has some great guitar riffs for background, and reminds me of what was in most of the good songs the Verve released. About 2:00 into the song, the orchestra sneaks in from its cigarette break and provides a very nice ending. Another essential song if you’re sniping the good ones from iTunes.
9. Royal Highness
Nothing too special about this song, but it does have a lot of the strings you’d expect from RPA. Has the strange movie-esque new age kind of sound to it, so it’s not for everyone and similar to “This Thing Called Life.”
Another song I really like (that puts it at what, three?) Opens with an acoustic similar to Sonnet from the Verve, but quickly brings in the violins. Not repetitive at all, it’s a grand song.
11. Life Can Be So Beautiful
Not a big fan of this one. Sounds too much like rap and doesn’t seem to fit for RPA, though I understand this is a new venture for him. There isn’t a clear narrative in the lyrics, and has a lot of whispered deep voices in the background like a 1970’s love ballad and the other vocalist makes some really odd hacking noises. Avoid this one.
12. Let My Soul Rest
At least the album closes on a good note. This one has a great background performance by the orchestra to open with few lyrics. Let My Soul Rest is more indicative of RPA’s singles work, rather than the Verve, but seems to be a good mix of the two. Another must have for the album.
Overall, I recommend the album as a whole. I think fans of RPA and The Verve would enjoy it, but if you can pick and choose what songs you like, by all means do so.
RPA and the United Nations of Sound (3 stars, UK Guardian)