Music

Barry Adamson: I Will Set You Free

Tenth solo release from this consummate professional and former Magazine and Bad Seeds sideman is no rehash of past endeavors.


Barry Adamson

I Will Set You Free

Label: Central Control
US Release Date: 2012-02-14
UK Release Date: 2012-01-30
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

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.

That I Will Set You Free begins in a more garage-rock vein than its jazzy predecessors is a clear sign that this will be no rehash of past releases. These sharp stabs of rock crackle up now and again throughout the album, with first single “Destination” being the noisy, handclap-indulging victor. Although the looser songs here bear the same streaks as those Nick Cave and a few of his Bad Seeds cohorts released under the Grinderman moniker, there is nothing outstandingly dirty about these tracks. While lacking a bit in terms of range, Adamson has a smooth enough voice to ensure he will never sound too sloppy. The album’s adventures in more reckless sounds could come off as jarring in the hands of a lesser artist, but Adamson thankfully has enough swagger to save the day eight times over.

I Will Set You Free takes other detours, most notably into the territory of slightly new-wavey pop. Adamson did, after all, play a part in Visage’s ‘80s hit “Fade to Grey”, so trying his own hand at this sound is not as initially shocking as could be. “Turnaround”, in particular, is a love song with nary a trace of portentousness. Who would ever have guessed a jazz devil such as Adamson could sing lines like, “I kick the air / I can’t keep on my feet for smiling” and come across as convincing? Even more startling is “If You Love Her”, which feels just slightly removed from Burt Bacharach’s more treacly material. Mostly, however, an air of danger is hot on the trail of Adamson’s compositions. A song like “Looking To Love Somebody”, despite its sentiment and soul groove, has a fair amount of faithlessness lurking just beneath its surface.

The cleverness of Adamson’s words shine throughout the album, a potentially self-referential “My kingdom for your Magazine” in “The Sun And The Sea” being a particularly nice touch. The surface innocence of “The Power of Suggestion” is brought to a welcome halt by Adamson imparting that his friends never come calling because “they're busy whistling Dixie and packing cocaine.”

Just as Adamson does a fair amount of lurking as a sideman, his songs are endlessly morphing to tailor to a listener’s states of mind. By letting a few slivers of sunlight in and slightly loosening his tie, Adamson has effortlessly moved his songs into a different area while still keeping proceedings going at the slickest of clips. Whatever comes next for Adamson, the “consummate professional” side of his persona will surely remain untarnished.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.