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Luke Sital-Singh - The Fire Inside

  by Adrian Janes

published: 14 / 9 / 2014

Luke Sital-Singh - The Fire Inside
Label: PLG UK Frontline
Format: CD


Over-hyped and bland long-awaited debut album from much acclaimed singer-songwriter, Luke Sital-Singh

This debut album from singer-songwriter Luke Sital-Singh comes with him already garlanded with praise from 'The Sunday Times' and 'The Guardian', has been compared with the likes of Jeff Buckley and Neil Young, and produced by Iain Archer, who has previously worked with Jake Bugg. So does it merit such feverish excitement? ‘No,’ would be the easy, dismissive answer. Several of the songs (such as ‘Nothing Stays the Same’ and ‘Greatest Lovers’) follow a pattern of opening with Sital-Singh and his acoustic, and gradually adding drums, massed backing singers and so on - everything but the dishwasher, if not the kitchen sink. Bruce Springsteen is one of Sital-Singh’s acknowledged influences, and the deterioration of what begin as potentially affecting confessionals into what live will no doubt prompt hearty Brooooce-style singalongs seems a shame. If there is such a thing as Adult Oriented Folk-Rock, much of this album would seem to fit that category. Most of the singing is performed in a high voice that often sounds on the verge of cracking. Many will find this touchingly vulnerable, but over the course of a whole album it’s too grating to these ears, the voice strained rather than stretched. Yet there are songs, or at least passages (for example the introduction to ‘Bottled Up Tight’ and ‘Lilywhite’, the latter’s sombre piano chords reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’) where Sital-Singh reaches a lower and more reflective pitch in a way that recalls Paul Simon. These moments of restraint actually carry more emotional power than the hectoring climaxes where many of the songs end up, ‘Bottled Up Tight’ included. The invocations of Jeff Buckley and Neil Young most likely relate to the raw sincerity of much of the singing. But a crucial difference is that both Buckley and Young are also inventive, expressive guitarists, allowing them to take their songs well beyond the confines of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. If you enjoy Sital-Singh’s voice this is not really an issue, but the lack of musical adventurousness adds an element of tedium if you are not so enamoured. The final third of the album (apart from another anthem in ‘We Don’t Belong’) pursues a starker approach compared to much of what precedes it, embracing ‘Fail for You’, ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Benediction’. ‘Cornerstone’, for example, is largely simple strumming set against a curiously distorted, disorientating guitar note, while on the piano-led ‘Benediction’ the Buckley-esque high notes are perfectly hit. With all three of these, simpler is better, though ‘Fail for You’ could happily lose the backing singers. There are too many caveats to regard this as a wholly successful album, not least an essential blandness to the sound. But in a world where Mumford and Sons can be massive, there seems no logical reason why Sital-Singh shouldn’t be too.

Track Listing:-
1 Nothing Stays the Same
2 Greatest Lovers
3 Bottled Up Tight
4 21st Century Heartbeat
5 Lilywhite
6 Nearly Morning
7 I Have Been a Fire
8 Everything Is Making You
9 Fail For You
10 We Don't Belong
11 Cornerstone
12 Benediction

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