Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Newton Faulkner - Hand Built By Robots

When English singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner toured Australia a couple of months ago he proved himself to be a likeable, entertaining and funny character. With dreadlocks flowing and an unquestionable ability with a guitar, he punctuated his set of stripped back, acoustic and emotive folk with charming quirkiness and general silliness. It was a lovely mix.

However, while his onstage kookiness was appealing, the highlights on his debut album are exclusively the more ruminative moments. The best of these comes when he puts down the guitar for the touching piano ballad, Straight Towards The Sun; its pretty, understated nature suiting the ever so slightly gravely, Eddie Vedder-esque texture to his vocal. Similarly, Aging Superhero and his cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop are beautiful, while the chorus of Dream Catch Me is rousing enough to explain why the song got such heavy radio play upon its release as a single.

Elsewhere, a plethora of very short tracks make the album feel a touch fragmented and perhaps a handful of its 17 songs could have been left on the studio floor. However, while Hand Built By Robots is a little hit-and-miss, there is potential for greatness here. Faulkner can really, really play the guitar.


Anonymous said...

I think you drpped th ball on this one and would be curious to learn of a release that you like....


bobbysix said...

Have to disagree Dan. I was disappointed... simply because the three-and-a-half songs that are good are really, really good. I just thought that - considering the high standards he sets for himself with these songs - the rest of the album was a bit of a let down. Still, if you are a fan then check out my much more positive live review here:

Oh, and so far this year, I like:
Laura Marling - Alas I Cannot Swim
Seasick Steve - Doghouse Music
The Felice Brothers - The Felice Brothers

Anonymous said...

Seen him several times live and was totally in awe - never realised what one guy & a guitar could be capable of. Absolutely love the entire album, but think it's much more subtle and demanding listening than your average folk/pop or whatever and goes over a lot of peoples heads. If you like albums that just repeat the same stuff over and over, this is not for you. But if you like real music and a real musician who has the balls to try a lot of different styles on one album, give it a try! Don't think you'll regret it.

bobbysix said...

I have to agree with the above comment about how good he is live. I really enjoyed his show when I was expecting not to. He sure knows his way around a guitar and was so funny and entertaining.

I stand by my review of the CD, but if I change my mind over time I'll let you know. I am always willing to change my opinion over an album. It is very hard to get a well-rounded view of an album when you have less than a week from listening to it for the first time to seeing it in print. Especially when you are reviewing a few albums at once.

I think I have developed a good knack of judging albums though. The only times I have really changed my mind is when I gave a baffled review of Jamie T's album and then it grew and grew on me and it ended up being number 2 in my albums of the year. More recently, I gave a relatively positive review to Supergrass, but ended up really loving it. If only I'd have had it for a couple more weeks before I reviewed it.

Going back to Newton. I'll be very interested in hearing his future stuff. I'm all for an artist trying different styles, but I really favour his slower stuff on the album. The rest just felt a little contrived to me. I think I was disappointed because I enjoyed him so much live. I just felt the record didn't do him justice.

Thanks for your feedback. I like it when people are passionate about music.

Any frther comments are welcomed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the review. Altho I think he was a bit too kind maybe. I didnt like it at all. Still, I suppose its all about taste. One persons opinion is diferent to the nexts. Thats whats good about music.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see some balanced comments on a net review - makes a change from the nasty vitriol you read too often. I saw Newton live at the Roundhouse in London and was very surprised. Not really my type of stuff, but I was mesmerised, both by the music & the man. Bought the album and was bit disappointed, but in reality nothing recorded could possibly capture what the guy does live. However, must admit that it's growing on me and I really look forward to what he comes up with next, as I believe he's only 23, so hopefully a lot more to come.

bobbysix said...

I agree that it is hard to capture on record what he is like live.

He is very dichomotous. Live it is his quirky side that is most appealing. On record it is his slower moments. In my opinion

Rhys said...

You mean dichotomous? You dropped the spelling ball on that one Bobby!

bobbysix said...

Ha! Yeah I sure did mean dichotomous. I was watching telly while replying to my comments and clearly not paying enough attention. I believe I was watching The IT Club on ABC, which isn't even that funny. What a boob I am.

Or maybe I've just invented a new word. Dichomotous. I wonder what it means?

STEVIE said...

Interesting review. I'm not sure Newton F really deserves all of the praise he's got. He's okay but some reviews went too crazy

A few average reviews arent the worst thing that can happen on a first album. keeps em on their toes

The reviews on this blog look pretty measured to me

bobbysix said...

I meant the IT Crowd. What the hell is the matter with me?