'With a cocksure swagger, Grennan's assured debut makes Bedford sound like Hollywood'
“More than likely, you don’t even like me,” growls Tom Grennan on inescapable banger ‘Make ‘Em Like You’. Elsewhere, ‘Lucky Ones’ has him admit “I was made out of nothing, you were made out of gold” to one of those assured lighters-in-the-air moments you expect from modern indie. Grennan has got a knack of backing a vulnerable modesty with a tune of sky-high confidence; if you’ve seen him live, you’ll know that everything he does travels with a cocksure swagger. And you’d hope he knows something that you don’t – that he’s got the goods to keep his momentum running as fast as his hype.
With a cameo in Charli XCX’s now iconic ‘Boys’ video,the Bedford-born singer-songwriter has collaborated with Chase & Status and been tipped as one of 2018’s most promising young upstarts, Grennan has already sold out venues that artists with years on him couldn’t touch and lined up headlining Brixton Academy before his debut album was even announced. A lot of that is probably down to his cross-generational and genre-hopping appeal. You can see him taking bites out of Radio One, Radio Two, Radio X and maybe a nibble on 6 Music. The DNA of ‘Lighting Matches’ has strands of the streetwise snarl of Jamie T, the graceful grit of Amy Winehouse, the cinematic backing pomp of early Florence and the Bond theme meets neo-soul scale of John Newman (when he was good).
Opener ‘Found What I’ve Been Looking For’ twitches with a riff and rhythm reminiscent of Foals’ ‘Mountain At My Gates’ before building into a beast of choral explosion that will doubtlessly become a festival favourite. ‘Royal Highness’ meanwhile maintains the indie dancefloor serotonin and there’s an almost sassy and flirtatious glam-rock wink to ‘Barbed Wire’ before album highlight ‘Sober’ rollicks with a spaghetti western bravado, adding fire to the album’s rolling themes of love, lust and loss.
There’s some fatigue alongside the fireworks, sadly. ‘Run In The Rain’ plods a little too safely down the Adele road to ‘black and white X Factor montage moment’, the bluster of ‘Abroad’ could probably do without the kitchen sink assault, ‘I Might’ smacks of insipid yoghurt advert vibes, and the whole package could be punctuated with a little more diversity.
However, you just know that his homegrown everyman charm is going to find him some love with someone somewhere. ‘Lighting Matches’ is a record that makes Bedford sound like Hollywood. Whether he gets there on this record, time will tell. But there’s enough class and promise to at least meet his ambitions halfway. He knows what he’s doing.