Cooking Vinyl (CD, LP)
By John Curley
Dave Rowntree, best known as the drummer in the English band Blur, is something of a renaissance man. In addition to his duties in Blur, Rowntree has been a lawyer, soundtrack composer, pilot, animator and a county councilor for the U.K.’s Labour Party. One thing that he hadn’t done until now is release a solo album. The result, Radio Songs, is a wonderfully eclectic mix of atmospheric songs designed to exemplify the different types of songs that a listener hears while tuning in different radio stations. Static weaves in and out of songs to provide the radio tuning feel.
Opening track “Devil’s Island” is about the danger of viewing the past through rose-colored glasses. It has an off-kilter opening that features a chorus of children’s voices. When Rowntree’s vocal kicks in, it is accompanied by a dreamlike female backing vocal. It’s quite atmospheric and trippy. “Downtown” is a critique of the present-day post-Brexit U.K. It’s melancholy and concludes with the lyrics “There’s nothing to say / Move on.”
“London Bridge,” one of the album’s standout tracks, sounds like it could be a New Order song. It’s got heavy bass, synths and a slightly distorted vocal by Rowntree. The difficulty of maintaining a relationship while living the life of a traveling musician is the subject of “1000 Miles.” It’s a slower, bluesy, moody song. Rowntree’s vocals on the track are solid throughout and he closes the song by declaring “Love makes us vulnerable.”
Dave Rowntree (Photo by Paul Postle)
“HK” and “Tape Measure” seem like sister songs in a way. The former uses very brief clips of a sensual female voice scattered here and there throughout the song, with the longest of those clips stating, “Sensation of love.” Apart from those clips, it’s a moody instrumental. It is somewhat reminiscent of Massive Attack’s “Paradise Circus.” The latter also uses short clips of a woman’s voice and has a similar feel to it. But there is a lead vocal on the song featuring Rowntree trading off with a female singer.
“Machines Like Me” is a synth-driven track that brings to mind Gary Numan’s landmark album The Pleasure Principle. It uses a distorted female vocal in the spaces between Rowntree’s lead vocal. “Black Sheep,” another album highlight, makes very effective and quite beautiful use of the strings. “Volcano” is highlighted by its distorted lead vocal by Rowntree. Closing track “Who’s Asking” is a nice instrumental that has a classical music feel to it.
Rowntree is already planning a follow-up album, and he would like to perform the tunes on Radio Songs live.
The music video for “Devil’s Island” can be viewed below:
The music video for “London Bridge” can be viewed below:
The official visualizer for “HK” can be seen below:
The music video for “Tape Measure” can be viewed below:
Rowntree and his bandmates in Blur will reconvene this summer for large-scale concerts throughout Europe, including back-to-back shows at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 8th and 9th. Concert dates and locations as well as ticket-purchase links for the shows can be found in the Tour section of Blur’s official Web site at https://www.blur.co.uk/.
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John Curley is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, writing album, book and DVD reviews, the occasional feature and contributing to 10 Albums That Changed My Life for the print magazine as well as writing live reviews, features and posts for the UK music blog Sounds From Across The Pond for Goldmine’s Web site.