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Alex Gardner - 'I'm Not Mad'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:08 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

Alex Gardner

Ah perfect! I've been looking for some music to put on while I'm busy doing something else,and this will do nicely. I'm very busy man, you see, got a lot of stuff on, very full diary, lot of hobbies, lot of work, and really, there are times when I can't be doing with all this distracting, attention-seeking, arresting music.

What I need is a playlist of songs which are neither so offensively irksome to my refined palate that I'm tempted to smash the speakers, or so astonishingly mind-sparklingly brilliant that my productivity shoots through the floor. Songs which just occur, pleasantly in the background, untroubled by frustrating production trends or magnificent wonderfulness. Songs which I will probably not remember ever having heard in a year's time, when they've fallen off the playlist.

Songs which won't make a fuss when they end up stuck down the back of the cupboards of my mind, never to be heard of again.

(Here's the video. I'll be honest, I was knitting while I watched it.)

Now, to justify this damning assessment of a new artist's breakthrough single, I was about to say that there is something too snoozy, too lily-livered about it to get the heart pumping. Actually, the problem isn't with something IN the song, it's with what is missing.

Structurally, that bass-led one-chord groove at the heart of things is perfectly nice. There's a pretty synthy mist that hangs over proceedings which recalls some of the Pet Shop Boys's frostier moments, and Alex has a soft, plaintive croon which suits what he is singing about pretty well.

But after the first minute or so, nothing happens. We just go round and around on the same eight bar of well-mannered, polite synthpop. Oh sure, there's a breakdown section, but it's not particularly arresting and comes across as a transparent attempt break things up and then drum up some interest in the return of that bassline again. A bassline which has been used to fuel the verses and the choruses, like Alex left a loop playing, wrote four or five melodic ideas over the top and arranged them in order of interest.

Other artists have done this and come back with songs of great power and mystery. Alex has come back with a song which will allow me to finish this paint-by-numbers recreation of the cover of the first Arctic Monkeys album (1 = grey, 2 = slightly darker grey, 3 = darkest grey etc), without going over the lines, and for that I'm grateful.

Three stars Download: Out now
CD Released: March 29th
www.alexgardnermusic.com
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

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