Release Date: Feb 14, 2012
Record label: Central Control
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Punk Blues, Experimental Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
In the four years since Barry Adamson issued the tour de force that was Back to the Cat, he's participated in at least one Magazine reunion tour. He was an original member before leaving to join the first version of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Adamson's influence is clearly felt on their first three albums and singles. I Will Set You Free purposely evokes the swaggering, sleazy rock & roll of the Bad Seeds and the restrained menace of Magazine's post-punk moodiness -- as well as other stops along his idiosyncratic musical journey.
Barry Adamson is perhaps best known for his role as secret weapon in Magazine and (briefly) the Bad Seeds, two bands already quite secure in their menace. Adamson’s solo material, ten albums strong, likewise dwells in the murky and packs an almost pervasive air of deviance. Although some of Adamson’s more recent output have had intimations of lightness—a few moments on 2002’s King of Nothing Hill and even more on 2008’s Back to the Cat spring to mind—these are nothing in comparison to his latest release I Will Set You Free, an album that is at times alarmingly accessible.
Freedom,’ like ‘democracy,’ is one of those terms that remains ubiquitous, while often meaning, as for Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, just what the speaker chooses it to mean. In the modern era, the word, referring to a Berlinian negative liberty, might indicate the individual’s freedom to make choices within a marketplace, to gratify desire without impediment. But desire, of course, is in itself a problem.
With an optimistic title and an almost sunny disposition on many of his numbers, Barry Adamson sheds his checkered past of gloomy rock 'n' roll music with the likes of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Magazine to put together an album of mostly uptempo songs on his latest effort. I Will Set You Free is jazzy, cool, and slick, with Adamson's molasses vocals alternating between growl and howl, often within each number. And although the uniformity of the songs eventually cause them to blend together into one continuous and redundant pop number, Adamson deserves credit for infusing each composition with enticing jazz saxophone licks, breezy piano chords, and rocking guitar riffs that don't become too overbearing or obvious.
Barry Adamson’s I Will Set You Free could have been a Top Star album here at CoS, had it maintained the beat, sneer, and funk that kick off the album. Instead, Adamson’s latest effort is half-hearted. You could draw a line in the sand and divvy up the good songs from the bad, which still should not take away from the quality inside this beast. Adamson’s past with Nick Cave as one of his Bad Seeds is evident here, but there won’t be any confusing the two by album’s end.
Adamson lurks in a grimy alleyway connecting movie scoring with roughshod garage rock. Martin Longley 2012 Barry Adamson brandishes an impressive history, beginning with his bass role in Magazine, running through the early Bad Seeds of Nick Cave, but most significantly gravitating towards his own striking body of work on the Mute label. Adamson’s imagined soundtracks eventually metamorphosed into the real thing, as he collaborated with Derek Jarman and David Lynch.