An album of two halves, but with some truly tasty highlights.
Nick Levine 2012-06-28
In the US, Adam Lambert is enough of a star to wind up the extreme Christian right. After finishing second on American Idol in 2009, he laid his cards on the table by kissing a male guitarist during a TV performance. He then sold a million or so copies of his surprisingly decent debut album, For Your Entertainment.
Over here, that album stalled at number 36, and Lambert is best known for alleged crimes against classic rock. Soon he'll attempt to fill Freddie Mercury's singlet in a series of gigs with the remaining members of Queen. Maybe Ritchie from Five was busy?
But it would be a shame if those Queen shows proved too distracting, because Lambert's own music deserves a shot. The first half of Trespassing offers a smorgasbord of succulent up-tempo pop. There are a couple of derivative cuts, but the highlights are tasty enough to compensate.
Naked Love sounds like a mash-up of P!nk and early Madonna, and Kickin' In is the sort of irresistible Michael Jackson tribute that Justin Timberlake used to dish up. Shady's disco-funk redux features smokin' hot guitar licks from Chic's Nile Rodgers. Best of all is Cuckoo, which has a vocal hook that's camper than Liberace's dry-cleaning pile.
The album's second half is less entertaining, alternating between bombastic arena-rock stompers and unimaginative ballads. Outlaws of Love is a well-intentioned but not terribly interesting gay rights anthem, while Underneath somehow manages to sound both overwrought and boring.
Only Broken English competes with the pop thrills of the first half. Beginning with a reference to the Tower of Babel, it just gets more ridiculous, climaxing with a breakdown that sounds like opera meets dubstep.
But even when his material sags, Lambert is a compelling presence: a likeable pop peacock with a vocal range Justin Hawkins might envy. His lyrics rely too heavily on meaningless slogans ("I'm takin' you to school!"), but he never lacks a sense of humour.
"Gotta get out of this straitjacket," Lambert winks on Cuckoo, the album's standout track. Freddie would surely have smiled at that one.