Britpop guv’nor remains scintillatingly relevant
Few people could vanish for three years and pop up, of all places, on the Live8 stage hailed as the greatest singer of all time. Richard Ashcroft can. Which is just as well, as it’s a mighty different world since he eloped, and even more so since his bitter-sweet glory days. Eskimo parkas are out, Arctic Monkeys are in, and drainpipe-clad skinny boys with skinnier ties run amok among acid-folkers, disco-punkers and rap-metallers. Anthemic indie is about as popular as Justin Hawkins right now.
So how does Britpop’s last man standing make his comeback? Well, he just sort of carries on. This shouldn’t work; it’s sedate, it’s not very different, it fades out, but from the opening harpsichord stabs it’s clear our Rich is still part of the pedigree of British songwriting. It’s a multi-layered lullaby of Mercury Rev synth squiggles and swirling guitars, complete with backing vocals that sound like a drunk man trying to make a point, that draws on everything from ’60s troubadours to his mid-’90s contemporaries, and will appeal to the new breed as much as his own loyal fans. “Fools they think I do not know, the road I’m taking/If you meet me on the way hesitating, that is just because I know which way I will choose,” he starts. He’s made his bed, and he’s going to lie in it, thank you. Welcome back sunshine.