The Bravest Man in the Universe
On XL boss Richard Russell's second attempt at re-contextualizing a grizzled African-American musical icon, the concept doesn't fare quite as well. Gil Scott Heron's last recording was successfully bleak and shocking for its lack of conventional soul sounds. With Womack, who in many respects is synonymous with soul music, this approach is simply wrongheaded. Contemporary, chillwave-informed synths dominate, sounding like leftover demos from the '80s. Moreover, Russell and partner-in-crime Damon Albarn sound like they've chopped up and re-edited Womack's vocal tracks, which results in an almost jerky feel. The title track's bass line isn't memorable and clashes with the vocals (not in a cool, dance hall-esque way) yet repeats unchangingly. This lack of development and subtlety is a frequent problem for the album. "Whatever Happened to the Times" is at least successfully atmospheric, possessing a continuous-sounding vocal track that flatters Womack's tortured eloquence. Still, the inflexible beats don't suit Womack's enunciation most of the time – they're better suited to the likes of Lana Del Rey, whose operatic monotony sounds pretty great on "Dayglo Reflection."
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