It's hard to believe Finley Quaye's debut album Maverick a Strike once went triple platinum in the UK. It's harder still to image anyone considering him promising enough for him to win "Best New Artist" as he did in Britain in 1997. I say this only because I find it troubling that someone offering something as limp and bland as this could ever be considered for any accolade, and most especially for something with the word "best" in it. Was the entirety of the United Kingdom asleep at the wheel? Lulled perhaps by Quaye himself? Or was Finley Quaye really that good? I'm trying to recall the latter, but I'm seriously considering the former listening to Much More than Much Love.
It's nothing personal though, as without really wanting to I find myself hoping Quaye can pull it off, hoping he can show me why he was a success. And this I know because the strength of hope comes through in disappointment, and that is precisely what this is, a disappointment.
While Quaye's distinctive vocal work remains at the forefront (a coincidentally more noticeable nasal forefront at that), gone for the most part are any memorable melodies, reggae and island touches he once did so well, as well as anything resembling freshness or a good idea.
In fact, instead of showcasing the uniqueness of his voice with music of equal inventiveness, Quaye seems content to serve up MOR-friendly fare, with dated drum and guitar sounds and canned horns; something that conjures up 1980's-era Phil Collins, though without any fun to offer (and yes, the fact I've complimented Collins here points to how stale this is).
But it is more than the music that sounds cloying here, as even Quaye's lyrics drip with a sort of sentimentality that borders too much on cheesy wince-inducing shallowness. A case in point being "Beautiful Nature", where he simply and repeatedly sings, "you have a beautiful nature". Worse yet though is "Living without You," with its uninspired throwaway refrain of "Living without you, sure ain't easy".
"Waiting for You" actually works with an initially interesting melancholic tone, one Quaye used on his last album, Vanguard, but again its maudlin lyrics ("I'm searching for you, I'm looking for you, but you're not near") and schmaltzy production lead to a quick overkill.
It is only on "This Is How I Feel", appearing a good two-thirds of the way through this release's running time, that Quaye returns to the same style that made "Your Love Gets Sweeter" both a hit and a memorable moment off his debut. The song is warm, unrushed, and unlike the remainder here, seemingly unforced.
"Dice", Quaye's team-up with William Orbit and Beth Orton (as effective and ethereal as ever) is a decent attempt at a new direction of some sort; offering a slice of variety, though ultimately also falling short. Far from exceptional, it still comes off as inspired next to the rest of the album, as his strong singing is given a bed of haunting dance-ready music and it suits him.
You could say that had the entire album been in Orbit's control then maybe something could have been salvaged, but overall it still comes across as an attempt at aping David Gray, an act whose shtick tired two years ago.
The trouble with all this is that an often sappy bleeding heart counts for little in music unless you can make it interesting somehow. And though Quaye makes it hard to down him by generally seeming to mean well, he remains unconvincing with his talents. I only hope, then, for the sake of pop culture's reputation, that the radio hit he is clearly looking for with this album remains elusive.