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5 out of 10
Dan Black's debut album is very 21st-century; hastily fashioned in stylish Paris following a sizeable online buzz, each track is digitally buffed-up with an overlaying sheen of artificial gloss and it comes replete with an ever-so impactful booklet featuring images of our hero on a ludicrously pretentious photo shoot in some Hoxton art installation space.
It opens with the stand-out 'Symphonies', a re-write of the Notorious B.I.G-thieving 'Hypntz' that heralded his breakthrough, melding sampled strings with the break from Rihanna's 'Umbrella'. Other tracks bear a similar 'heard it somewhere before' feel but, conversely, memorable tunes are at a premium. A third of the album is sullied by torpid dreamy electro-ballads that have you reaching for the >> button, 'U+Me' starts up with a Timbaland-style break but ends up sounding like Gary Numan half-heartedly eloping with Erasure and of the rest, there's little to get excited about (except perhaps the riff from Cliff Richard's 'Devil Woman' being used in 'Pump My Pumps') and while 'Alone' and 'Yours' may well have you pumping your pumps into the floor, as with most tracks, they're forgotten about the moment they end.
Many of Black's multi-layered vocal melodies are pleasingly catchy, as on 'Symphonies' and 'Ecstasy' but his voice- sounding like an off-key 3-part harmony between Thom Yorke, Ian Broudie and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab/Postal Service- rarely hits the spot with any real fervour.
Dan Black tries to present himself as a kind of Beck/Prince hybrid but ultimately, his album's all a little too clean, crisp and, Black's whimpering voice aside, is meticulously bereft of human error and, as such, strangely robotic and unmoving. It's also quite telling that the credits state; 'All songs made by Dan Black'; not written, arranged or performed but made, as if each track has been lazily pieced together from composite sound clips with some particularly splendid labour-saving Mac software. Which is, of course, very 'now'.
2. U + Me =
7. Pump My Pumps
9. Cigarette Pack
10. Life Slash Dreams
11. I Love Life
12. Let Go