Maps Turning the Mind Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Charts its maker’s journey from narcotic confusion to lovely sobriety.

Andrzej Lukowski 2009

It is an oft-observed phenomena that people on drugs tend not to be half as interesting as they believe themselves to be. Thus it was quite the relief when James Chapman – aka Northampton-based electro-gazer Maps – recently confessed that he’d been off his gourd for most of the time he was recording and promoting debut album We Can Create.

It wasn’t a dull record – indeed, in the spiralling dream-pop of You Don’t Know Her Name it boasted one of 2007’s most purely exhilarating musical rushes – but Chapman’s reedy monotone and ditchwater lyrics were by far and away the least appealing part. Two years on and he’s been quite free in talking up successor Turning the Mind as a better, more personal album; one that ups the lyrical game as it charts his journey from narcotic confusion to lovely, lovely sobriety.

It is, unfortunately, a similarly well-observed phenomena is that the only thing more tedious than people on drugs is people who used to be on drugs talking about how they’re not on drugs anymore. While kicking the narcotics may not be actively to blame for the failings of Chapman’s second album, the fact is that the meatier subject matter hasn’t helped him as a performer, and has indeed diminished the sense of ebullient lift his best songs require.

Presumably the numbness of his delivery on single I Dream of Crystal is meant to simulate his emotional state during the height of his abuse, but really, a spot of actual emotion on lines like “and I will screw it up, I’m used to that” could have done the song wonders. Portentously declaimed spoken-word statements like “release is a cocaine fury” (on Let Go of the Fear) are not really the answer, either.

It’s a shame, because he’s still bashing out some fearsome pop songs – witness the liquid analogue cascade of Everything is Shattering and the glossily strutting lattices of Die Happy, Die Smiling. The problem is that he’s still yet to convince that he should be the one to sing them.

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