The melodies haven’t gone AWOL, but this isn’t an advance from Captain Blunt.
Matthew Horton 2010-11-02
When James Blunt released his second album, All the Lost Souls, in 2007, critical attention focused on lead single 1973 and, in particular, the line "As time goes by I will always be in a club with you in 1973, singing Here We Go Again". "But he wasn’t alive in 1973," they said. "And what’s this Here We Go Again? Does he mean Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again? That hadn’t even been recorded." Talk about playing the man, not the ball. Essentially, You’re Beautiful isn’t easily forgiven; a crime heinous enough to deny a singer artistic licence. Not that any of this mattered one jot to Captain Blunt, who went on selling millions of records, squiring lovely ladies the world over and being a thoroughly good egg on Sesame Street.
Prejudice ignored All the Lost Souls’ good points, which included a serviceable slice of classic pop in the maligned 1973 and generally decent Elton John-indebted melodies across the rest of its easy-listening tracks. Nothing any more awful than Blunt’s own tremulous whine. But while that voice retains its special majesty here, Some Kind of Trouble can’t match its predecessor’s virtues.
Its lack of life is a problem. The single Stay the Night is a deceptively bright introduction, a joyous bit of fluff that sees Blunt waiting to make his move at a California party ("We’ve all been singing Billie Jean" – at least that’s plausible, right?). It’s followed by the similarly perky Dangerous, which somehow marries Michael Sembello’s Flashdance soundtrack fave Maniac with Chesney Hawkes’ The One and Only, but Blunt then surrenders to familiar, soupy balladeering. Best Laid Plans teems with cliché ("It seems you only want the things that you can’t have") and some David Gilmour-lite guitar noodles that also rear up on Superstar, So Far Gone and No Tears. That last title belies lachrymosity that could float a battleship.
Still, this is what you get with James Blunt, isn’t it? Teary, mid-paced pleas for a lover’s forgiveness. And it’s not as if the melodies have deserted entirely: noodles aside, Superstar’s appealing falsetto chorus shakes things up a bit, and If Time Is All I Have is suitably anthemic, this time tuning the guitars to George Harrison. When all’s said, Some Kind of Trouble is not a terrible record by any means, but there’s little sense that Blunt has advanced – and equally little sense that it’ll make any difference to his bottom line.