herald

Thursday 17 August 2017

Pedestrian fare from bard of the buskers

Newton Faulkner Studio Zoo (RCA Sony)

IT probably seemed like a great idea at the time. And the man with the ginger dreads no doubt needed another gimmick to keep his platinum-selling jolly busker routine trundling along. That's when Newton Faulkner decided to record this new album with a four-camera 24/7 live stream from his home studio for the five weeks it took to complete.

"Really intense" is how Newton describes the experience. And so reality, the TV concept, descended to yet another level of hellishness.

rattle

Newton can play guitar, fast and slow. So overdubbing layers of fiddly bits and dramatically stopping and starting is a big deal in his world.

He's not a great singer, but whenever he's stuck, he picks up a shaker or bongo drum and gives them a little rattle. Jo Whiley at the BBC loves this sort of thing. Today, Faulkner is the hottest one-man band since Don Partridge.

The live stream idea provided Newton with a comfort "blanky". When he'd fire off a riff, he'd ask viewers if they approved. Most often the hapless saps would respond with creatively helpful posts of "Wicked, dude!"

In effect, they're equally culpable for the mish-mash of strum-along bleatings and half-baked jingles that seldom get beyond demo stage.

cowbell

To mopy 13-year-olds, Faulkner's lightweight musings ("I'm tired of love. Don't need nobody...") must sound as deep or complex as anything by Laura Marling or Elbow.

Musically, he's not stuck in one groove. Just Outside floats like an outtake from a Jack Johnson surfer session. Plastic Hearts opens with intricate guitar filigrees that suggest Newton will always have a future in a Yes tribute band. But banging on, ad nauseum, about "plastic hearts and polystyrene dreams" suggests he could benefit from a) a producer other than himself and b) a lyricist.

Innocent, a delicate melodic confessional song on which he reins in his obsession with showing off, illustrates the best of his talent. To his credit, he avoided the cowbell. HHIII

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