by Ryan Casey
“Don’t try to fight it, you’ve got to get behind it”, vocalist Sean McGhee sings in the second track of Artmagic’s debut album, ‘Become the One You Love’. It is a lyrical sentiment that indeed becomes difficult to overlook when listening to the rest of the album: essentially an anthemic-pop record with the rock backbone provided by Suede guitarist Richard Oakes. The combination of such a renowned guitarist, and McGhee, with millions of record sales to his name in a diverse range of genres, from Britney Spears, to Rizzle Kicks, should make for an interesting concoction. Yet the most glaring problem with ‘Become the One You Love’ is its sheer lack of ambition amidst a wave of genre-bending trendsetters in 2012 so far.
It all starts on a rather high note. ‘The Choice’ is heartfelt and subtle: a genuine lighters-in-air anthem, tugging at the heartstrings and demanding the listener’s immediate attention. The reluctance to open with a more head-on rock track certainly pays off, giving way seamlessly to ‘Down in the River’, which shifts things firmly into soft-rock territory. It boasts all the ingredients of a party-rock track – a catchy guitar riff and clapping hands – with an infectious chorus. It is not wholly original, but for what it is – an uplifting portion of likable rock – it can certainly be forgiven for lacking a little originality.
Sadly, the rest of the album fails to live up to the manifesto established by the openers. ‘Forever In Negative’ plods along like a Robbie Williams track, while ‘Submerged’ is not quite as weighty as its string-led ambition would want you to believe. This exposes one of the key weaknesses of the album: it simply does not live up to its own lofty ambitions. It is a rather frustrating problem after the strength of the opening two tracks, which are both subtle and laid-back, yet infinitely more immediate than much of the rest on offer.
That is not to say that ‘Become the One You Love’ is a poor album, by any means. ‘You’ is immediate and infectious in its verses, whilst ‘Heaven is Here’ boasts a glorious chorus. There is something remarkably ‘Take That’ about Sean McGhee’s vocals and production in the latter song; a pop influence that perhaps the rest of the album could have explored and embraced to a fuller extent.
But it doesn’t, and for that reason it does unfortunately suffer from the all too common problem of losing sight of its own intentions. Sometimes, a lack of direction can work, as has been seen already this month with Young Hines’ debut album, but regretfully, it leaves certain tracks exposed for their weaknesses when juxtaposed with their stronger counterparts, on this occasion. For all the emotion of ‘A Homecoming’, there is the forgettable monotony of ‘You’, which leaves one wishing for more of a trip down the emotional route than the anthemic rock, reaching for the stars but falling short through lack of a crucial component: memorable anthems.
On a whole, ‘Become the One You Love’ is a decent, inoffensive listen, which is also perhaps the album’s biggest weakness. Often, one is left craving for something a little more… ‘cutting edge’. Perhaps this reviewer’s perspective has been hampered somewhat by the ground-breaking originality of other recent releases, such as Death Grips’ masochistic hip-hop ‘The Money Store’, and Grimes’ perfect slice of multi-layered pop, ‘Visions’. Perhaps it is a case of them raising the bar so high in terms of originality that it skewers outlook somewhat.
But the fact stands: while ‘Become the One You Love’ is not a bad album, it isn’t really an interesting one either. Unfortunately for Artmagic, 2012 is establishing itself as a year of the ‘offensive-yet-inviting’, and this album is merely too inoffensive to grasp attention. Although not suggesting the band go ‘dubstep’ on their next release, a little more originality and branching out would not have caused much harm, or failing that, just playing to the strengths of the heartfelt opener. As it stands, it is top-heavy record that goes out on something of whimper.