Album review: Ian Brown – ‘My Way’ (Polydor)

Six solo albums in, and the reasons for that reunion appear to be getting ever fewer

While we’ll most likely be denied ever hearing the man saying, “Fookin’ Space Hoppers, right, they were magic” on one of those I Love… programmes that the BBC make to fill up their Sunday night scheduling, you have to admire [a]Ian Brown[/a]’s aversion to nostalgia.

A lesser man would have reformed [a]The Stone Roses[/a] by now (you could buy a fuckload of cagoules with the money they must have been offered) and it’s refreshing, in an age when everyone from the [a]Pixies[/a] to [a]The Wonder Stuff[/a] can’t resist scratching an itch, that Brown’s pride and sense of self is more committed to looking forward than back. What’s that? He plays ‘Waterfall’ live? Well, I bet you would too if you’d written it…

The story goes that this new record was conceived after Brown had just come out from a binge on [a]Michael Jackson[/a]’s ‘Thriller’. He says that record was his “blueprint”. That “every time we wrote a song we didn’t think was strong enough, we scrapped it”. You can tell as much too – it’s an extraordinarily strong collection of music, with some sussed sonic touches that suggest Brown is striving for an indie-pop appropriation of what [a]Timbaland[/a] routinely does to R&B records.

Once again, it’s that kind of arrogance that sets Brown apart from the pack – who else would name their record after the most grandiose vocal standard ever conceived? And you can tell the man is an old punk too – there may be limits to his vocal reach, his technical ability even. But there’s little give point on his own imagination.

Highlights include his take on ‘In The Year 2525 (Exordium And Terminus)’, which is bizarre, but also perfectly suited. Or the record’s big weepie ‘Always Remember Me’, which sounds more unrestrained in its soppiness than you might ever recall the man being before. Yet it’s the strut of opener and lead-off single ‘Stellify’ that burns brightest, a close second being the 3am gonzo electroclash of ‘Own Brain’ (it’s an anagram of his own name, don’t you know?). All of which suggests this: if you’re holding out for a Roses reunion too, then you’re missing a trick; forged over 10 years of solo records, given finesse with his sixth release, Brown has become the UK’s most consistently entertaining and often innovative solo artist. Would you really give that up to hear him bellow ‘Daybreak’ in a field?

James McMahon

What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.

Click here to read Uncut’s review of this album.

Click here to get your copy of Ian Brown’s ‘My Way’ from the Rough Trade shop.