Home > News & Reviews > Anderson East

Anderson East - Maybe We Never Die (Album Review)

Friday, 20 August 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Kat Irlin

We all need to shake things up from time to time. Whether it’s a fresh look, a change of attitude or a full blown reinvention, such modifications can add fresh sparkle to our game and lift us out of a potential rut. But what happens when your new clothes don’t quite fit, your well intentioned behavioural adjustments and radical revisions fall flat, and you end up jettisoning what once marked you out as unique?

Although Anderson East wasn’t going through the motions on his exceptional last two albums, ‘Maybe We Never Die’ represents a deliberate attempt by the singer to reach a larger audience.  He may have the looks, voice and talent to be a star, but playing the kind of Otis Redding-meets-Laurel Canyon retro strains of ‘Delilah’ and ‘Encore’ usually doesn’t guarantee an instant pass to fame and fortune.

As such, the man from Alabama has re-teamed with producer Dave Cobb and shunted his aesthetic towards a smooth 1970s and ‘80s sound that, similar to the retro-modern stuff Mark Ronson dishes up, incorporates funk, disco, electronica, lush Philly soul and ambient psychedelica. And parts of this new brew work well. 

East is excellent at delivering smouldering, reflective balladry and, even though there’s too many of those slower numbers here, If You Really Love Me and Like Nothing Ever Happened are both high calibre romantic diamonds. His sojourn into new territory also delights on the atmospheric Interstellar Outer Space, while Madelyn and I Hate You blend the singer at his soulful, melodious best with a more richly textured sound.  

That said, things go awry elsewhere because of the evolution at play. Token vocoder interjections on Jet Black Pontiac are unwelcome, while the plodding title track drops a hideously processed vocal on its choru. Falling, by attempting to elevate a rather average song into a pulsing dancefloor banger, throws an overdose of instrumental bells and whistles at the wall.

Compounding those stylistic missteps, East’s primal, powerhouse rasp is often in hiding on this album, replaced by a slow burning, sombre croon. With the arrangements so bright and sometimes overly congested, his distinct character consequently feels subdued and suffocated, overshadowed by too much happening around him and ill-suited to this more produced canvas.

That’s an even bigger problem when his identity completely disappears. Drugs, despite being a grooving monster and potential smash hit, finds his falsetto so indistinct that anyone could be singing it. The nostalgia-baked Hood of My Car, although musically akin to what Taylor Swift did on ‘1989,’ is a lyrically generic, inauthentic crossover attempt that sells East short.  

Compare those efforts with Girlfriend, the barnstorming Avicii co-write on his last record that perfectly showcased how to fuse the singer’s classic sound with a modern approach. It succeeded because it kept his presence front and centre as the appropriate, era-bending explosions of colour happened judiciously around him. 

It’s not hard to capture East’s magic. Whether it’s simmering ‘60s balladry or stomping old school rhythm and blues, he simply thrives over the kind of organic, spacious and no frills Muscle Shoals-styled ensemble that allows his emotive outpourings to soar. Full marks for trying something new but, when you’re that special in the first place, the phrase ‘If it ain’t broke…’ should be heeded.



Let Us Know What You Think - Leave A Comment!




Related News

No related news to show
 
< Prev   Next >