Richard Ashcroft falls flat on Keys

Richard Ashcroft's third album, Keys to the World, is an uninspired trip through well-covered territory.

He seems to be at every party. That intoxicated guy who seems to think being drunk makes him more insightful. He'll wax philosophical about a variety of subjects, such as love or the meaning of life. Nothing he says makes any sense and once you start talking to him, he won't let you get away until he's told you his theory on how everything in the world is like, totally interconnected.

On his third solo LP, Keys to the World, Richard Ashcroft is that drunken guy. The swagger and sincerity that suited him well as the frontman of The Verve falls completely flat and he sounds insipid and uninspired.

This album starts out bad and just gets worse, closing with a painful-to-listen-to "World Keeps Turning." The track, the shortest on the album, clocks in at just less than four minutes. The song has a country feel, but Ashcroft is more content to play with extremely overwrought arrangements. Ashcroft's vision seems to have been something along the lines of, "the more dramatic string sections and choirs backing me up, the better." Even the track "Simple Song" is unfortunately, anything but.

This overblown aesthetic does have one positive outcome. It makes it harder to pick up on the lyrics, which probably are the worst thing about the album. Ashcroft is prone to singing quasi-deep couplets such as "Life's tough/Life can be hard" and "Why do lovers/Choose others?" on "Why Do Lovers?" Of course, many of these images make no sense, including the gem, "Music is power/Yeah just like a flower" on "Music Is Power."

The Album's most tolerable track is its opener, "Why Not Nothing?" It's an up-tempo rocker that is definitely catchy, despite lackluster lyrics.

It's really sad that a man who made such memorable albums with The Verve fails to hit the mark as a solo artist. Oddly, the things that worked really well for The Verve — dramatic, complex instrumentation and Ashcroft's U2-esque lyrical pronouncements — don't suit this solo project. It's obvious Ashcroft can produce interesting, meaningful music, but his formula is getting stale.

On title track "Keys to the World," Ashcroft speculates this is a "suicidal world" and "perhaps I could make it better." The only way he could make this world better is to stop recording clichéd, over-sentimental solo albums and experiment with something else.

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