James Dean Bradfield - The Great Western

It may have taken him 15 years to do it, but it's been worth the wait. James Dean Bradfield has managed to break the shackles of the Manic Street Preachers and release his first solo record. After their self imposed hiatus for two years, both him and Nicky Wire have used the time to have a rest(!) and do something different. Wire's solo project continues to get intriguing live reviews, but Bradfield seems to have really found his voice that has been just bubbling under the surface. His first penned song being "Ocean Spray", one of the highlights from the otherwise dull "Know Your Enemy" and a deeply personal meditation on the death of his mother. Following his continued travelling via train from Cardiff to London he found himself writing songs and channelling his influences into his own voice.

The first thing that has to be said about this album is that it doesn't really sound too much different to the Manic Street Preachers circa "Everything Must Go"; it's big sounding, lushly produced and Bradfield's voice has never sounded so good. Though this isn't a bad thing, I'd liked to have seen him try something a little different perhaps. It's also heavily influenced by rock records of the 70's; the guitars sounding as if they've found some kind of time tunnel and have been channelled directly from that decade. It's also an album that grows on you over time. I've had this for a month or two now and although initial listens left me with a couple of highlights, the more I listened to it the more it opened up; the more I found additional hooks and lyrics that drew me in. One of the frequent highlights is how eloquent Bradfield’s lyrics are; gone are the embarrassing Sixth Form politics that sometimes spoil Wire's with the Manics - these are deeply personal songs that come straight from Bradfield’s heart.

"An English Gentlemen" was written as a tribute to the late Philip Hall; the Manics publicist, friend and mentor who frequently went beyond the call of duty during their early days. Then there's "Bad Boys And Painkillers", which feels as if its about the infamous Richey Edwards and a great slice of indie-pop with a twist of Phil Spector. "On Saturday Morning We Will Rule The World" may start off slowly but rises to a jaunty guitar number which feels like you're actually on the train journey that Bradfield took whilst writing it. There's actually not a bad track on here, "Run Romeo Run" sounds like the Manics at their urgent, youthful best with guitar solo and sing-along chorus that's proof that Bradfield has an ear for a pop tune as well as the more simple and morose numbers. As a contrast "Still A Long Way To Go" is a the latter; a gentle ballad seemingly about a difficult relationship that hasn't had time to develop into what it could.

This album has really surprised me. It does take time to work its way into your head, but once it's in there you'll find it hard to do without. From the pop tinged numbers like recent single "That's No Way To Tell A Lie" to the gentle meanderings of "Which Way To Kyffin" it all highlights the song writing skills of a man who's spent too long in the shadows and now deserves his chance to shine.

Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 04:51:58

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