It’s been a few years since his last album but Newton Faulkner is back after a year of lockdown and Covid and weirdness and this time he’s serious. While it perhaps won’t lead to someone standing in a crowd yelling “Judas!”, there’s a distinct change in tone to his new album, the music on offer coming across as a little darker, a little harder edged and a lot less acoustic than previous offerings.
Interference (Of Light) is not quite the change that, for example, Mumford and Sons underwent between Babel and Wilder Mind but there’s definitely a rougher feel to this collection of seventeen tracks. I’ve listened to this album over half a dozen times and no matter how many times I listen to it the tracks almost all just seem to end up blending together and by the end of it I’m left with nothing more than a vague impression of what I’d just listened to. None of it seems to stick.
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This album is a far cry from the folky, quirky strains of Hand Built by Robots with its catchy melodies and distinctly different tracks. Listening to that album you would never confuse, for example, ‘To the Light’ with ‘People Should Smile More’ or ‘UFO’ but here it’s honestly difficult to point at many of these tracks as true highlights of the album or describe what makes them truly differenf from the others. There’s a couple that deserve special mention, certainly, but all in all this entire album is just… fine. It’s fine. It’s not bad, it’s not great, it’s solidly “Eh.” and as a genuine fan of the man’s work it’s a real shame that this is the conclusion I’ve come to.
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After all these listens and all this time spent staring at the track list, these are honestly the only two tracks that really left an impression on me. ‘Sinking Sand’, the opening track is a big, chunky, electric-tinged slice of funk, more reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz than Newton Faulkner. A clear statement of intent that this album is going to be something a bit different. And track ten, ‘I Can Pretend’, which is definitely my favourite track of the entire album. With a beautiful, driving bass line, upbeat tempo and a catchy chorus, this one is a definite toe-tapper that I’ve probably listened to as many times as all the other tracks combined. It’s the only one I can definitively point to and go “Yes. THIS one is good.”
As for all the rest? Yeah. It’s an album to stick on in the background, something to listen to while you’re driving or cooking. It’s just not compulsive enough to really merit sitting down with headphones on to listen to in isolation and that’s honestly a shame. Newton himself has stated that the stuff he’s written lately is “simpler” and that’s definitely the impression you’re left with by the end of these seventeen tracks. This is an album I’ve listened to for the purposes of review, but unlike Hand Built by Robots or Hit the Ground Running which I come back to again and again, this is probably the last time I’ll ever listen to it.
Interference (Of Light) is out on 20th August from Battenberg Records.