If you can imagine a The Beautiful South fronted by a genetically spliced Elton John and Barry Gibb, you'd have a good idea of where to place Mister James Blunt in this musical library we call "adult contemporary" music.
It's not necessarily a bad reference, unless you think Elton John's best work is Disney's The Lion King and you've never heard of his masterpiece, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975).
There are moments when Blunt's delivery hints at Captain's cool. And with a slightly different approach to the songwriting and production processes, he may at some point achieve that same kind of impact. Frustratingly, he falls a short of such lofty expectations on this effort.
Back to Bedlam had been around for about a year, shuffling awkwardly in indie wasteland, when Blunt was noticed doing live support slots for, among others, the aforementioned Elton John, and Katie Melua. The album is very much suited to audiences that consider Elton and Katie's low-key, sedate "songs about personal demons and pain" in-vogue.
As these types of artists and their albums go, Blunt is admittedly better than some - Daniel Powter and Rob Thomas' last efforts jump to mind - and he probably deserves some recognition for that. He does a fair enough job of playing several instruments, and writing most of the material, too.But the length of the album may be a bit much on some days. Back to Bedlam seems to drag on a bit, and it's "one dimensional", to put it - erm... bluntly. Of course, many would disagree with that appraisal - critics and fellow musos have been heaping praise on this release. It's hard to work out why. It's not earth-shattering. It's merely better than average in its rather unadventurous genre.
What Elton John realised on Captain Fantastic was that an album of this introspective nature requires some levity to provide a counterpoint to its otherwise cheerless subject matter - either by way of eye-catching personality, or lyrical whimsy. As it is presented, Back to Bedlam's dour misery is "enough to make a shy bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder" (with apologies for the quote to Morrissey).
Now that's a lyric, see? Even a line like that would have made Back to Bedlam much more bearable. - Anton Marshall
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