There’s panic on the streets, the nation is in debilitating grief. Children are crying, people are losing their minds and nothing will ever be the same again. Why, I hear you ask? Newton Faulkner has gone and cut off his trademark dreadlocks.
Or at least cut them shorter and made them into a bun on his head, as demonstrated in the new video for his lead single Get Free off his new album Human Love. Supposedly the change in hair style is to symbolise a shift in sound and a desire to start anew for the Surrey born singer song writer. With the Major Lazer cover Get Free being the first cover to feature on one of his albums since the seminal Teardrop from his debut Album Hand Built by Robots, it certainly seems like he’s serious.
First and foremost, as with his other albums, Human Love showcases Faulkner’s talents as a skilled guitarist and passionate vocalist. When performing live he often strips back the production so he can delve into his acoustic-percussive guitar trickery in a ‘one man band’ style of performance. This comes across in songs such as Stay and Take where the intricate guitar lines would make an impressive spectacle live and the produced version leaves you guessing as to where he’ll fit in his percussive slaps. This is without mentioning Tessa Rose Jackson, the first official collaborator on a Newton Faulkner album, who lends her vocals to the track so she can sing and harmonise over the appropriately large sounding sing-a-long chorus.
However while ‘Human Love’ was meant to be a musical reawakening, the shift in style isn’t really all that great. The songs are impressively composed and fun to listen to but aren’t all that different from others in Faulkner’s back catalogue, with the sole exception that these new ones are subject to a little more intense pop production. The biggest shift in style probably comes in the song Shadow Boxing which initially plays through like a standard Newton-esque pop song, but soon expands into an electro-pop hit. His signature guitar work is still in the background, but the real focus here is Faulkner’s stellar vocal performance.
Finishing the album is the title track and driving ballad Human Love, which provides an intimate guitar and vocal performance over slow and hammering drums. ‘When I’m with you, I feel like taking on the weather’ Faulkner sings as he abashedly pipes over various guitars and drums that work together like a finely oiled machine. It’s a simple and effective way to end the album and shows Faulkner appreciating his roots in his attempts at forging a new style. The song is a quiet end to an otherwise very pop-centric album.
Ultimately this album may not have been the massive change in sound that Newton was hoping for, but he still managed to churn out an album full of well written pop songs. Whereas some may be certainly more forgettable than others, there are plenty of songs here that will complement his live performances, which are arguably the way in which most Newton Faulkner songs are better off heard.
By Matt Austin