[26 August 2014]
Most bands today are fairly simple to classify. In today’s world in which almost anyone can throw together an EP, it is important for an artist to find their niche audience and begin to grow a reputation. That being said, sometimes you stumble upon an artist who is so versatile that to pigeonhole would be doing a great disservice to listeners.
Liam Bailey’s first full length album, Definitely Now, is so genre-defying that if not for the unmistakable voice of Bailey, it could seem like a mixtape of several artists. This strategy can only be successful with a skilled singer and musician. Thankfully Bailey shows that he is indeed both.
The album ebbs and flows between acoustic reggae, soulful R&B and down-and-dirty blues rock.The only issue with the frequent changes in style is the way Definitely Now‘s tracks are put together. Instead of splicing the different genres together seamlessly, the album comes off more as three EPs stuck together to form a full-length project.
The album opens decidedly bluesy, with tracks like “On My Mind”, “Fool Boy” and “Black Moon”. All of which feature typical blues characteristics like repeating bass and drum lines and frequent aggressive riffs from Bailey on guitar. They also hold true to the lyrical subject matter of down-on-their-luck lovers and men on their last leg. “Black Moon” especially holds true to the genre’s themes, with a especially retro sounding chorus of, “Black moon you need to go/you only bring me painful woe”.
It’s after the very Jimi Hendrix-esque “Villain” that the the album takes its first abrupt turn with the slow R&B ballad, “Autumn Leaves”. Here is where we get the the first sign that Bailey is no one trick pony. He shows he can croon just as well as he can rock the house. This track relies much less on driving guitars and instrumental momentum and more on the vocal range and skill of Bailey, who shows he can more than handle the burden.
“Battle Hymn of Central London” is where Bailey shows some of his most skilled songwriting, featuring a religiously tinged chorus of, “You’re my holy fire/you’re my holy light/so be my Jesus and save me tonight”. This is also where we see Bailey once again take on a new persona as a reggae artist. Changing his vocal tendencies accordingly as to chameleon into the genre seamlessly.
Once again, as is the case with many of the sudden mood shifts within the album, this is not an isolated effort. We see the final third of the album play out as essentially an acoustic reggae EP. This again brings up my one serious issue with Definitely Now . This is an album full of consistently above average tracks but, because of a lack of focus and the disjointed way in which the songs are put together, it just somehow struggles as a full-length album. This is an issue which, fairly or unfairly, muddles and partly overshadows the skill and promise that Bailey shows as a musician.