Album review: Mr Hudson – ‘Straight No Chaser’

Even Kanye West and Jay-Z's patronage can't help British solo star's own effort

One of the more befuddling cultural micro-phenomena of recent times has been the US hip-hop community’s sudden fascination with not-very-interesting British white-boy music. You can probably rationalise [a]Jay-Z[/a], [a]Kanye West[/a] and [a]Coldplay[/a]’s love-in as simply three globally massive artists comparing their respective vastnesses, but quite how perennial mattress-protector-requirers [a]Keane[/a] persuaded on-the-rise Somali-Canadian rapper [a]K’Naan[/a] that it would be a good idea to work with them is a mystery indeed.

Equally mysterious is how [a]Mr Hudson[/a], formerly eclecto-indie dullards [a]Mr Hudson & The Library[/a], has (we’ll say ‘has’ rather than ‘have’, given that members of The Library are now credited as guest performers) enraptured the aforementioned Messrs West and Z, unless they have been waiting all their life for a man who sounds like the mutant offspring of Sting and a bassoon being constantly fed through Auto-Tune.

Oh, did someone mention Auto-Tune? Because it’s not Hudson’s foghorn bellowings that are the real enemy on this record, it’s that motherfucking computer program – with Jay-Z having announced its death earlier this year, this album could be the primary defence witness at the murder trial.

When a production technique has been pioneered by Cher and Dane Bowers, that really ought to be enough reason to leave it alone, but practically every line on here is fed through a filter that makes it sound like somebody is attempting to forcibly tracheotomise Hudson while he sings. Single ‘Supernova’ is practically a parody, and the same technique renders the title track absolutely unlistenable. It’s a shame, because in making Hudson sound like a cyborg with a wonky tuning dial in his throat, it detracts from the moments on the album that might otherwise have been affecting. In fact, given that ‘Straight No Chaser’ is such an awful cliché of a title, can we suggest ‘DBA (Death By Auto-Tune)’ instead?

Oh, did someone allude to Jay-Z again? His collaboration, ‘Forever Young’, is already the worst moment on ‘The Blueprint 3’. Only the sparse electro of ‘Everything Is Broken’, on which [a]Kid Cudi[/a]’s limited rhyme skills actually work to the song’s advantage, is worth sticking around for. The rest of it… well, it actually makes one hanker for Keane trying their hand at hip-hop. Yeah, OK, that’s going too far…

Pete Cashmore

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Click here to get your copy of Mr Hudson’s ‘Straight No Chaser’ from the Rough Trade shop.