The overall sound of this fourth solo album from the Idlewild frontman falls somewhere between the these-days more melodic rock band sound and the stripped back folk-influenced nature of much of Woomble's early solo material. It comes across as, well, experimental in parts too, perhaps due to Woomble's recently discovered and confessed love of Free Jazz. Elsewhere it has an eighties feel, reminiscent of Prefab Sprout or The Go-Betweens. Woomble describes the album as 'brooding and atmospheric' which, while accurate, is a label unlikely to attract a significant new audience.
Many of the tracks do not fit the 'consummate tunes' description Woomble's PR gives them either. 'Look Back Like Leaving', for example, the brave opening choice, is sparse, laboriously slow tempo'd and ultimately unsatisfying.
There are some upbeat moments, 'Jupiter' for example is a quirky upbeat pop song in contrast; all echo and distortion and apparently evolved while Woomble was discussing astronomy with his eight year old son. 'First Love Is Never returned', the lyric of which provides the album title, is more mainstream, and Meet You By The Memorial is also at least an identifiable song. But there is also ethereal weirdness, such as on 'On N'a Plus de Temps', a duet (with Hannah Fisher) sung mainly in French.
This is an album that will no doubt please Woomble's existing legions of fans, but given its lack of an identity and any coherence of style or genre, I'm not convinced it will win him any new ones.
Last word goes to Woomble who describes the record thus: "I think it's a good driving record, certainly for me, hopefully for others. Its diverse, not folky, quite introspective I suppose, a midlife crisis record some suggest? Hmmm, maybe, but if so it's still got good tunes, and they work with well with the moving landscape." Judge for yourselves, but introspective, broody and atmospheric just doesn't do it for me.
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