Death Row Lover
The troubodour's influences may be familiar and well-worn, but the results will exceed any expectations.
'Death Row Lover'
is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeogWOeBZt4
THERE is something quite interesting occurring...
down in the male solo artist market. I contrast with the female market, there does seem to be a little bit more unpredictability and range amongst new artists. I'd say the quantity/quality ratio was more-or-less even in the established cores; but when it comes to the business of brand spanking new musicians, it is the men who offer a little more curiosity. The mystery and odd range comes from the rather limited stock of established influences. For the female market, a great deal of the most inspirational established artists, are still performing. From Beyonce, to Christina Aguilera, through to Mariah Carey, the modern influences are either still recording, or on the scene. Not that every new female artists will be influenced directly by these established superstars, but a huge amount are. There are a few that are truly unique, and offer a sound that is incomparable; but a vast majority of the total market's D.N.A. can be traced to relevant 21st century paramours. For the men, the story is somewhat different. The range of artists that the new male talents are driven and indebted to, is a lot wider. For the most part, a lot of the responsible artists have already passed on, or less are long retired. In this sense, it comes as a bigger surprise when hearing the voices, emanated forth. There is a fickle short memory amongst music fans, along the lines of 'out of sight, out of mind'. So few, predominantly, teenagers are even aware of the existence of the likes of Freddie Mercury, Otis Redding or Roy Orbinson. It is true that a great deal of new artists will in some way- directly or not- try to emulate existing stars like Thom Yorke, Antony Hegarty or Matt Bellamy, for instance, but to my mind, the majority of the tribute is paid to musicians of the '70s through to the mid '90s. I have been casting my mind around, to see if I could drag some contemporary examples to mind, when ascribing vocal lineage. If you listen to someone like Justin Timberlake, for instance; there is a hint of Michael Jackson and Prince. Matt Bellamy has aspirations to combine Freddie Mercury with Thom Yorke, and within the wider sphere of the well-established market, you can detect a lot of older influences as well. I am not sure why this is; except perhaps that there are fewer modern male idols on the scene. With a lot of established female artists trying to project an air of liberation and feminist power, there is not that same political edge and ambition with the men. If anything there is less structure and focus, but consequently, there are more surprises; and a lot more range with regards to vocal tone, projection and the overall artist. Where are there is a lot of choice for the consumer, unfortunately there is a depressing tendency for sections of the media, to lazily label artists as 'The Next...'. I have mentioned in a previous review, that a lot of the comparisons are made with Jeff Buckley. The comparables are made because the featured male artist can sign falsetto, or has a modicum of emotional projection. Tom Odell is compared to him; Patrick Watson is, as well as several other dozen I can mention. The dirty secret is, that none of these artists are worthy of this comparison. They may have a few similarities, but when comparing vocal majesty, range and originality, none of them are within spitting distance. Also Buckley came first. If you are being compared to him, chances are you have ambitions to be him, and therefore suffer from a lack of new ideas, individuality and personality, and really need to start from scratch. Matt Corby is possibly the most worthy modern equivalent. But even he cannot reach the same dizzying highs; instead being more skilled in the lower ranges. Even time, a new artist arrives on the scene and is compared with Buckley, I shudder and want to cry.
I rant, because Oli Wennink has Mr. Buckley as an influence, as well as Antony and the Johnsons. I was relieved to hear that although you can hear shades of the aforementioned in his voice, one can also hear that Wennink's voice is his, and his alone. It is the mark of a truly unique and impressive artist if you can mention your influences in passing, yet differ from them, and not fall into any trap of lazily parodying and mimicking them. There are too many new artists that stray far too closely to their idols; Wennink manages to craft something quite masterful. The young man hails from Brixton, an area that has not been especially prevalent in the music press, for producing a lot of recent talent. Historically it has always been a key location and inspiration point with regards to music production. As a whole, London has been quite quiet as of late. The north, Scotland and interlinking locales have been hosting a great percentage of fervent talent, yet the U.K.'s most populated and prosperous city, has been a little guarded and shy. There is a vast amount of new talent performing in and around the capital, yet when it comes time to finding stunning current wonder, attention is drawn and focused on other parts of the country. Wennink will go some way to bucking the trend, and putting London back on the map. Wennink has already been championed by Absolute Radio, and has played a session for them. He has been hailed as a huge future star, in no small part due to his exceptional piano playing and distinctive voice. In the same way as a lot of our current male solo artists have a hard time shaking off burdens of comparison, and have little real chance of being a viable prospect in several years from now.
Death Row Lover is a summation of a restless and adventurous young man. The video for the track has recently been completed, and will be airing very soon. The acoustic version is available on YouTube and has been earning some plaudits and a lot of love. It is a song that takes little time making its mark, beginning as it does, with a gorgeous and romantic piano coda. It has an essence of the great romantic classical pieces, yet repurposes any sedate or mournful tones, and instead weaves a contemporary relevance into proceedings. In the same way that some of today's greatest purveyors of classical edges, such as The Cinematic Orchestra, can invoke a riot of tenderness and emotion. It is a passage that lasts less than 20 seconds, yet manages to set the tone beautifully. It is soft and elicits a swooning touch that captures and seduces. The scenes that are evoked portray carnage and disorder, and amongst the corners of mayhem and emotional turmoil, is the heroine; the subject; the Death Row Lover. There is a doubt in our hero's mind, as to whether his lover is faithful and if he is the only one on her mind. When Wennink sings "And you're in love with another"; his voice rises and you can hear that underneath, there is a lot of pain and regret. It is said that if he is not too late, and there is still a hope, then he can be the one to save her; casting himself as the Death Row Lover; the saviour for a soul that is tormented and doomed for unhappiness. Wennink speaks of a hard road and future for him; one that could be swallowed up. Damn it though, if the torment and uncertainty is intended to bring you down. The author has his heart on his sleeve, but it is the consistently gorgeous and moving piano coda that keeps the mood above the water. Your sympathies are certainly with him, but your body is swept up in the waves of lilting notes and swathes of beauty. The chorus is the most effecting element to the track, and a silver dollar which produces a multitude of vivid and striking imagery. One cannot help but imagine a lonely woman, making mistakes, in love with a man who is all wrong for her. Meanwhile, our protagonist sits alone, and wonders why it is not him who is with her. There is a longing for sure, but the vocalisation is never cloying or overdone; the falsetto is affecting and mannered, and wrings the right amount of emotion from the situation. Wennink wants to be a "lucky escape"; a lifeline for the unnamed object of his desires. In a sense there are some similarities with To Build A Home, by The Cinematic Orchestra. There is that same wonderful and soothing piano work, lyrics that take your mind to other corners and places that they may have never visited before, and a strong and impressive vocal tying everything together. There is no need for any cheap linchpin or trick; the track wins you because of its bare-boned and bare-chested core. In the way that Antony and the Johnsons can consistently produce stirring and stunning songs with classical tones, Wennink can pull off the same authority. Only the voice behind the talent is not as deep and haunted; there are softer edges nestling within the lingering beauty. The track ends with a wordless coo. Our hero serenades, emotes and doesn't say a word; you can tell that all that needs to be said has been said; and he is letting you into his head and thoughts and the piano and voice blend superbly. One cannot help but wonder how things worked out, and whether the individual parties found peace, and how the heartache and tension was resolved. Although I guess the conclusion will be reserved for a later date.
I am glad that Wennink has not pulled off a lazy and uninspiring trick, by trying to be someone who he is not. There are far, far too many in the market today that have no voice of their own; instead being second-rate copies of past artists. Wennink's career may be in its infancy and the best moves are ahead of him, but the first steps are so encouraging, that he should have no fear. On the evidence of Death Row Lover, you can tell he is a talented songwriter, whom is capable of taking themes of love, longing and pain, and doing something different with them. Lesser songwriters may have told of a relationship that has broken up, or an affair, or whatever; essentially treading very old ground with little insight or though paid towards poetic detail. Wennink blends strong imagery with an intelligent and poetic touch that infuses the song with a maturity and authority, beyond his years. The piano playing is exemplary, and he is clearly an incredibly talented musician. It is the blend of originality, musicianship, and a voice that is impassioned and striking, that will lodge the song in your ears for a long while. Where as I have been reviewing a lot of northern talent, and focusing my attentions further up the country, I am pleased that there is some major talent close to home. The capital has always been a little down the league table when it comes to producing the all-time classic artists, but I am hopeful that some time soon, there will be a new band of pioneering acts, whom are capable of being remembered decades from now. For the meantime, it is encouraging that there are songwriters out there, that have their own voice and ideal, and are not contented to compromise or squander their talents. The official version and release of the song is imminent, and it will be wonderful to hear what it will sound like, and whether it will differ too much from the acoustic version. I am confident that it will build upon the solid foundations that are displayed here, and add extra texture and mystique. Wennink is a young artists whom has a lot to say, and has a loyal band of fans that are willing to provide support and accreditation for many years to come. If you are someone who believes in the future of the solo market, and are looking for a genuine talent who can deliver a hefty punch, one thing is for sure:
HERE is a name you will be hearing a lot more of in the future.